4 Simple Ways to Try and Reduce the Harm Caused by Image Sharing Online

We live in a world inundated with photos, and sadly image-based abuse (and I’m not just talking about revenge porn) is becoming almost ubiquitous – everyone knows at least 1 victim.

There are approximately 657 billion photos posted online each year globa4 Simple Ways to Try and Reduce the Harm Caused by Image Sharing Onlinelly, and the majority of these appear on social media channels where they will be endlessly seen, duplicated and used by any person.

Our images are as much our personal information as the mountains of other identifying data mined about us online. Even in the wake of serious scandals involving the very services we use to post and share our images, our awareness is not as sharp as it should be. Companies like Google and Facebook (who also owns Instagram and WhatsApp) can quickly identify you, connect your image to associated personal data points they collect, and build a profile so deep – so detailed – that they not only map your commercial tastes, assess your credit worthiness, but they will even predict your sexual preference!

Protecting your child’s images is paramount

Six reasons why protecting your child(ren)’s image is so critical right now:

  1. A photo is personally identifiable data and can be easily used as a source to uncover your child’s identity – especially with the emergence of online publicly accessible AI technology
  2. Photos are being used as the primary weapon of choice for cyberbullying due to ease of manipulation and ability to add comments & ‘likes’
  3. 50%+ of child exploitation content is harvested from social media channels, like Facebook
  4. “Freemium” photo storage/sharing sites are funded by owning/exploiting your child’s data so be careful how much information you give away to these companies
  5. Personal data is the “new oil” of corporate value creation, and data brokers are very efficient miners, using images – and associated data – to predict more about your child’s mental state than a psychologist!
  6. A child’s digital footprint WILL ultimately have a major impact on their future (e.g. employment) so you must protect it like you would their passport

The dangers are very real and very present. They include stalking, identity theft, cyberbullying and image-based abuse, use for creating child predator exploitation material, sordid fantasies, or in supporting child grooming. Have you heard of “Finstas”? The latest growing phenomenon where bullies are using Instagram – a social channel for sharing images – to harass their victims.

And what about the potential consequences? Well, we’ve all heard earlier this year the very sad story of Dolly and the increase in young suicides due to bullying etc. In Australia, 1 in 3 young people have reported at least one form of image-based abuse or victimisation. RMIT University also exposed that 80 percent of victims experiencing threats to distribute an image reported prominent levels of psychological distress, consistent with a diagnosis of moderate to severe depression and/or anxiety disorder.4 Simple Ways to Try and Reduce the Harm Caused by Image Sharing Online

Parents need to seriously think twice before giving-away carte-blanche access and permission to their child’s image when being asked to share it with companies, who then share online, on public cloud services or in their social media accounts. This includes schools, sporting clubs and associations. What context is it being used for? Where will it be published? How much additional information are they sharing with it? Where will it be stored? Who else can gain access to it?


A recent Deloitte report indicated 2018 could be a landmark year “of the biggest privacy incidents of all time!” With that in mind, we need to teach our children that their image, especially in a digital environment, is a precious commodity.

Here are 4 simple ways to start making a difference:

  • STOP signing blanket or general consent forms. Make sure you only provide informed, specific consent to any organisation wanting to use your child’s photo – find out when, where and what a photo is being used for, for what purpose. Remind the organisation involved that photos are personal information requiring greater protection. In my previous blog, I discuss school photo consent in more detail.
  • TAKE SHOTS from an angle. If the intention is to publish a photo on social media or for an organisation to post your child’s photo publicly, make sure all sensitive data (such as EXIF data) is removed and your child’s face is profiled side-on or from behind to reduce automatic identification.
  • Be careful about who is in the background of an image or video and what they are doing. This helps to remove context from the image (such as landmarks, friends, school) and decreases the chance of your child being identified by the image alone.
  • Be respectful and take the time to ASK OTHER PARENTS PERMISSION when taking shots that include their children if you intend to post the photo publicly.

About the Author

My name is Colin Anson and I am the CEO of pixevety. We have built a smart consent-driven photo management solution for schools, and parents. We are an Australian-owned company that assists schools in doing a better job of protecting, managing and sharing student photos and videos to reduce harm. We also help parents get more control over their child’s image.

Call us on 1300 438 389 for a quick live demonstration of the platform, or feel free to recommend us to your school.