How to Find and Protect your Children’s Photos Online

Just today, the news of the largest bank security breach ever is all over the news. Over 106 million people in the US and Canada are said to be affected by this hacking event through Capital One, detailed here. This comes not too long after the settlement was announced for the Equifax customer data breach from 2017. We’ve been been seeing larger and larger privacy events like this, going back to a massive data breach with Target just a few years ago. You might not even remember that one, there have been so many since then.

With all of these security events, is it even worth trying to protect your data? Yes! Especially when it comes to personal information about our society’s most vulnerable members, our children.

If we don’t pay attention and do what we can do to protect our identity and our data, we can’t really expect the government to do it for us. Technology is evolving much faster than the government can manage or monitor these days. Do the basics to keep tabs on your own credit records and those of your children, and then consider these steps to keep your photo history safe, as well.

How to Find and Protect your Children's Photos Online

  1. How can parent check to see if their child’s photo has been stolen?

It’s extremely difficult to find a particular photo out in the wild, because many search functions are driven by photo metadata, which can be changed by other parties and software that is widely available. However, the technology is rapidly evolving to make finding your photos that may have gotten loose on the internet more feasible.

You might be able to find your child’s face in a photo via Google search. Type into your browser: . You can upload a photo from your own computer and search for the same or similar images. You can also drag and drop. This search is likely comparing the content of the photo and/or the photo metadata with other images on the web, so you may want to search a few different photos, without your child’s name or GPS info attached to the photo.

If you’ve used facial recognition functions in Apple iCloud or Google Photos, you have seen how accurate these can often be, often finding people in photos even if they are blurry or turned sideways in profile!

More detailed info here:

If you are a blogger, you might also find images you’ve previously used on your blog via programs like CopyScape. This won’t necessarily find images, but will find plagiarized or scraped content, which may include images.

  1. What safety precautions can be taken to avoid this?

I don’t want to spend any time on why you need to take safety precautions. You can read plenty of news articles on bad people doing bad things to children, both in real life and virtual life.

To keep your kids safe turn off your device’s GPS option on your photos. With just a few clicks, even if your child’s photo is stolen, it doesn’t have to point back to your home or favorite neighborhood hangout. Ask yourself why you need the GPS metadata on your photos anyway. We did just fine without that up until just a few years ago.

Consider whether you really need to post all of those photos of your child. Really. Do you? It’s OK to have a personal policy of not posting your child’s photos online. You can still share photos privately through secure sharing services like Even texting and emailing, while not completely secure, only limits that photo to the view of the person you sent it to.

If you must post photos of your child publicly, either because your family is far-flung or because they are willing participants in your blogging adventures, consider strategically staging the shots to be partially obscured, silhouettes, or profile shots. These might be less likely to be attractive for other users to steal, while still sharing important milestones with family members and friends who follow you online. It’s the reason this article’s featured photo shows my daughter’s feet and not her face.

Speaking of milestones, think before you post. Do you really want a photo of your daughter in her nightgown, a naked baby picture, or a potty training photo out on the web? It may seem completely innocent to you, but not everyone has pure intentions.

If you really want to be certain others can’t get their hands on your child’s photos, choose your photo backup services carefully, and read the Terms of Service. All of the large companies retain the right to use your private photos. All of them. Including Apple and Google, the two largest and potentially easiest to use, but it also includes all of the big names like Facebook, Shutterfly and more. Instead, use an external hard drive or private photo vault service Like Mylio or to backup and store your photos. If your provider doesn’t say it’s a private service and your photos will never be shared, you can assume that they might be.

  1. What can parents do if their child’s photo has indeed been stolen?

If the photo is posted by a person that you can contact, like a teacher or friend’s parent, simply make a verbal or written request for them to remove the photo. No explanation is needed. You don’t need to defend your right to take your child’s photos off of public sites. But if you want to explain, you can simply state that you have a family policy of not posting pictures of your child publicly. I personally allow my child’s photo or name to be used, but not both together in online material.

  1. What don’t we know about protecting privacy when it comes to photos?

Watch this space. There is a court case and ruling in Illinois that is trying to hash out whether computer facial recognition features, which uses face geometry, is breaching individual privacy. Here’s but one of many articles on this legal battle. The laws are trying to keep up with the technology, so don’t be surprised if the facts on this topic change overnight.

As a professional organizer, a professional organizer, and a mom, I probably think way too much about these issues. But if my advice helps keep your family a little safer, then I’ll be glad to hear about it. Can you please comment below?