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Wanna force granny to take down that family photo from the internet? No problem. Europe's GDPR to the rescue

Grandchild Digital Picture Removal

A court in the Netherlands ruled this month that a grandmother must remove pictures of her grandchildren from her social media accounts after her daughter filed a privacy complaint.

The grandmother, according to a Gelderland District Court summary, has not been in contact with her daughter for more than a year due to a family argument.

Her daughter has three minor children who appear in pictures the grandmother posted to social media accounts on Facebook and Pinterest. In February, the daughter wrote to her mother, noting that her requests made via the police to remove the photos of her children from social media have been ignored and giving her mother until March 5 to comply or face legal action.

After the grandmother failed to take the photos down, the mother took her complaint to court.

The Dutch implementation of Europe's General Data Protection Act requires that anyone posting photos of minors obtain consent from their legal guardians.

When the court took up the matter in April, the grandmother had removed photos, except for one from Facebook. She wanted that one picture, of the grandson she had cared for from April 2012 through April 2019 while the boy and his father, separated from the mother, lived with her.

The father in the instance of the Facebook image also did not consent to the publication of the image.

Image copyright did not get considered in this case. Nor did the emotion considerations raised by the grandmother, as the summary filing says.


EU've been naughty: GDPR has netted bloc €114m in fines since 2018


The case summary says that while GDPR exempts purely personal activity, it's not clear that postings to Facebook, with possible exposure to internet searches, qualify for that exemption.

Accordingly, the judge gave the grandmother ten days to remove the picture. If it isn't removed by then, a fine of €50.00 (£45, $55) will be imposed each day the images remain in place, up to a maximum of €1,000 (£900, $1,095).

In the US, where there's no overarching privacy framework like GDPR, photographers have fairly broad rights when it comes to taking pictures in public places and publishing them.

While there are some restrictions – Georgia, for example, has a law that forbids any photography of a minor by a registered sex offender without consent from the child's parents – a non-explicit photo of a minor taken where there's no expectation of privacy and published to social media or a news site without the parental permission would generally be legal under the First Amendment. ®

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