It seems that the European Union’s digital privacy protections aren’t just a handy way to keep the Facebooks and Googles of the world from snooping into your personal life. According to a recent court ruling in the Netherlands, these same protections can apply to overly invasive family members, too.
First detailed in the Register, the case involved a Dutch grandmother who refused to delete photos of her “underage” grandchildren from social media, despite their mother’s protests. As the Register explains, the grandmother and her daughter hadn’t been in contact for roughly a year due to a “family argument.” Among the issues, apparently, was the grandmother’s refusal to take down photos of her daughter’s three kids from her Facebook account, and in February, these complaints reached the local police.
The grandma kept on ignoring the authorities’ requests—and, per the docket, kept on updating her page with more photos of these grandkids—so the tiff was taken to court. This resulted in the Grandma taking down all of the photos, save for one of the grandson she’d cared for from 2012 to 2019, when he was living with her. In this case, neither the child’s mother nor his father had consented to the photo being shared on social media.
As it so happens, the Dutch stipulations surrounding the EU’s general data protection regulation—also known as GDPR—require the permission of a legal guardian when posting intel about anyone under the age of 16. Typically, something that could be considered a “personal” or “domestic” activity (which, ostensibly, includes posting photos of your grandkids) falls outside of the GDPR’s protections. But as the court docket notes:
It cannot be ruled out that posting a photo on a personal Facebook page falls under a purely personal or household activity, [because] it has not been sufficiently established how [defendant] her Facebook account or her Pinterest account has been set up or protected.
Searching for the names of a grandkid using a search engine, they explained, could easily turn up these photos, since photos on most social media profiles are one of the many, many things that are automatically indexed by companies like Google. So even though posting a picture of your children (or grandchildren) might be technically considered domestic, it’s still something that can have pretty far-reaching implications in the non-personal realm.
The Dutch courts gave this grandma 10 days to take the pictures down, threatening a fine of €50.00 (or roughly $84) for every day the picture stays posted, up to a maximum of €1,000, or just over $1,600. It’s unclear if she’s taken the photos down by now, but hopefully this will make her think twice before putting these grandkids on display.