Court Rules Grandma Must Remove Photos of Her Grandchildren From Facebook

Illustration for article titled Court Rules Grandma Must Remove Photos of Her Grandchildren From Facebook
Photo: Getty

It seems that the European Union’s digital privacy protections aren’t just a handy way to keep the Facebooks and Googles of the world from snooping into your personal life. According to a recent court ruling in the Netherlands, these same protections can apply to overly invasive family members, too.

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First detailed in the Register, the case involved a Dutch grandmother who refused to delete photos of her “underage” grandchildren from social media, despite their mother’s protests. As the Register explains, the grandmother and her daughter hadn’t been in contact for roughly a year due to a “family argument.” Among the issues, apparently, was the grandmother’s refusal to take down photos of her daughter’s three kids from her Facebook account, and in February, these complaints reached the local police.

The grandma kept on ignoring the authorities’ requests—and, per the docket, kept on updating her page with more photos of these grandkids—so the tiff was taken to court. This resulted in the Grandma taking down all of the photos, save for one of the grandson she’d cared for from 2012 to 2019, when he was living with her. In this case, neither the child’s mother nor his father had consented to the photo being shared on social media.

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As it so happens, the Dutch stipulations surrounding the EU’s general data protection regulation—also known as GDPR—require the permission of a legal guardian when posting intel about anyone under the age of 16. Typically, something that could be considered a “personal” or “domestic” activity (which, ostensibly, includes posting photos of your grandkids) falls outside of the GDPR’s protections. But as the court docket notes:

It cannot be ruled out that posting a photo on a personal Facebook page falls under a purely personal or household activity, [because] it has not been sufficiently established how [defendant] her Facebook account or her Pinterest account has been set up or protected.

Searching for the names of a grandkid using a search engine, they explained, could easily turn up these photos, since photos on most social media profiles are one of the many, many things that are automatically indexed by companies like Google. So even though posting a picture of your children (or grandchildren) might be technically considered domestic, it’s still something that can have pretty far-reaching implications in the non-personal realm.

The Dutch courts gave this grandma 10 days to take the pictures down, threatening a fine of €50.00 (or roughly $55) for every day the picture stays posted, up to a maximum of €1,000, or just over $1,090. It’s unclear if she’s taken the photos down by now, but hopefully this will make her think twice before putting these grandkids on display.

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I cover the business of data for Gizmodo. Send your worst tips to swodinsky@gizmodo.com.

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DISCUSSION

gordon-absolutely
gordon-absolutely

Whether or not one is forced to add or remove content to Facebook is absolutely inconsequential next to the enormity of Facebook’s existence in the first place.

Facebook is a free service. Read that again. Facebook is one hundred percent free to the user of Facebook. You can make a profile and connect with others to your heart’s delight for free. It wasn’t long ago when this would seem impossible.

Mr Zuckerberg takes a lot of heat for having amassed his billions at such a young age. But, is that not just a reward for increasing the standard of living for every person in the world? It seems a small sum if so. He could very easily charge Facebook users to access the platform, but he doesn’t. He keeps it free of cost so that humans can connect with each other and become closer, so that humans can understand one and other better and form lasting bonds. He keeps it free because the objective of Facebook is to connect humanity and fulfill its destiny of becoming globally homogeneous. Facebook isn’t just a charity, it’s a mission from God.

Next time you open your timeline, reflect on what you are doing. And remember that this wonderful experience is given to you free of charge. You know what? Thanks, Mark.