The Gift Of Online Privacy

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Every month I see several birth announcements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I know exactly what moment the baby was born, what they looked like in sonogram photos, what their first food was, their favorite animal, who their siblings are, where they traveled on vacation, etc. I’ve enjoyed these moments, but in the back of my mind, I find myself feeling sad for children who are growing up during our online over-sharing era.

These kids get shared with all of us before they are even out of the womb.

I’ve grown to adore some of these children I’ve seen online over the years. Children I’ve never met. Their parents seem like good people. The fact that they share doesn’t make them bad. They absolutely love their children and take delight in sharing their milestones with everyone. It makes them proud. I’ve loved every moment of it, so why now am I positing that everyone should cease sharing this information about their children?

Well it is simple. I think children should have the choice to create what persona they have online themselves when they are adults or when they are old enough to understand what they are doing on there in the first place. We are slowly robbing children of this choice and freedom. Kids will grow up with every little detail shared on the Internet about them and they will have no say over it and may even grow up thinking that Internet approval is important to their self-esteem.

I don’t trust the future, because I don’t think the folks at Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. have thought much about it. It is our data until it is their data. Also, everything made public on the Internet has a pretty good chance of being there forever thanks to services that are in the business of archiving it all. So why would we trust them with our children’s data? We can barely trust them with ours.

Also, have we thought about the long-term implications of sharing every future security question with strangers? Biometrics might be the only solution to that, and I don’t know about you, but biometrics are only cool if you are a spy who’s lost your memory.

Maybe I’m old school. Maybe this is my “get off my lawn” moment, but I really think we just haven’t spent much time or discussion talking about the implications of our data-sharing habits in the future. Over-sharing seems like it is at an all-time high. Internet services make sharing things with strangers pretty much effortless, and what’s more fun than sharing a photo or tweet about one of the people you love the most? I know the likes and thumbs ups are fun and rewarding for parents and friends, but perhaps we should think less about ourselves and more about them and what future we’re creating for them.

So, this holiday season, I’m asking each and every parent who reads this to sit down and think about their actions, their children’s future and where they net out on all of this. I think privacy is one of the greatest gifts worth giving.