Written by Anne Livingston, kidsprivacy.wordpress.com
Parents love sharing a great picture of their kid with all of their Facebook friends. The one photo everyone sees on Facebook is the profile picture. So, many parents use a picture of their kid as their own profile picture. However, a Facebook profile picture is more than just a picture to share with friends.
When users interact with a product or company on Facebook, their profile picture may appear in a Sponsored Story. Sponsored Stories are ads built from a person’s post, likes, check-ins, or other interactions with brands. These stories pop up right in the newsfeed.
When a parent’s profile picture is their kid, the kid’s image is now part of the ad. With the ability to search via an image, a parent’s Facebook “likes” could become part of their kid’s digital profile.
Facebook users cannot opt out of being in Sponsored Stories. Who can see the ad will depend on the privacy settings of the original post. If a parent shared their trip to Starbucks with everyone; everyone can see the ad.
These Sponsored Stories are not just limited to the Facebook newsfeed. Zynga, who makes Farmville, now displays Facebook ads and Sponsored Stories on its website. This new partnership may signal the start of Facebook ads appearing on other websites. A child’s picture could appear in ads across the internet.
If a parent wants to keep their child’s image as their profile picture and does not want it included in an ad, that parent should not “like” any product or company or do anything else on Facebook to trigger a Sponsored Story. While users cannot opt out of Sponsored Stories, they can limit who sees the other type of Facebook ads in their privacy settings.
Ultimately, parents should keep their digital identity separate from their kids. One of the easiest ways is to choose a photo or avatar that represents only them. Parents can add the great photo of their kid to the cover photo or post it to the Timeline.
When sharing a picture of your child always remember to ask for their permission. Your activity today could be linked to their digital profile tomorrow.