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French Privacy Laws – The Start of What’s to Come?

Have you ever posted a photograph onto Facebook of your son or daughter taking his or her first steps or pulling a cute face, without giving it a second thought?  Next time you do, you might want to think twice...

French privacy laws

Under French privacy laws, parents who upload photos of their children on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, could be sued by their children and if convicted of publicising details of their children’s private lives without their permission, could face a year in prison and a fine of £35,000.

France is expected to adopt new provisions under the new EU data protection regulation (EU General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR), before it actually comes into force in 2018. This includes introducing a new Bill for a “Digital Republic” which would amend several key provisions of the French Data Protection Act and the Consumers Code. Amongst other things, the new regulations will mean parents could face being taken to court by their children for publishing photos of them when they were younger.  

One of the main reasons for these changes is due to a concern about the security of children.  Posting photos of children on social media is not in their best interests.  It could also potentially be unsafe due to the information that is being made readily available when such photos are uploaded onto the internet. Despite concerns about what strangers can find out about children online, a rather worrying 74% of participants in a 2015 social media awareness survey conducted by the University of Michigan admitted that they had posted baby photos on the web anyway.

New EU regulations

The GDPR has been finalised and will come into force in 2018. This will replace all data protection legislation in EU member states, including the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998. The GDPR states that ‘children deserve specific protection of their personal data, as they may be less aware of risks, consequences, safeguards and their rights in relation to the processing of personal data.’

Although this does not implement a regulation across the EU that goes as far as penalising parents for uploading photos of their children, it is a step in the same direction as France has taken, as it highlights the importance of safeguarding a child’s personal data. 

Due to the ever increasing use of social media by young people and the use of mediums such as Facebook and Twitter by parents to post photos of their children online, social media may well become one of the spotlight areas to be addressed when it comes to data protection regulation, both now and in the future.

What is to come?

The relevance of the GDPR within the UK remains to be seen as it will depend on the outcome of the ‘In or Out’ referendum on 23rd June 2016 - if the UK is voted out of the EU then the GDPR will have no bearing on UK legislation. Regardless of the outcome, it is certainly worth bearing in mind the impact that new and future regulations could have on families across the EU. Perhaps the old fashioned family photo album is a safer place for storing your family memories.  


These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

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