Should you post photos of your child on social media? Two parents explain their decision (2024)

Hello and welcome to Screenshot, your weekly tech update from national technology reporter Ange Lavoipierre, featuring the best, worst and strangest in tech and online news. Read to the end to meet the under 30s who prefer chatbots to humans.

Who's to blame for kids being fed to AI?

On some level, it makes sense that no-one wants to take responsibility for something this nightmarish.

Photos of Australian children have been discovered in a gargantuan dataset that's used to train AI image generators – without the kids' or their parents' consent.

As the ABC reported on Wednesday, the families had no idea, the AI can't forget what it's learnt, and there's a small but real risk it will reproduce those kids' faces by mistake.

Many images were scraped from hard-to-find places that people might have thought were private, such as personal blogs and school websites, or locations that were not readily searchable via a browser.

It's worth considering where responsibility lies.

To start with, the Human Rights Watch researcher who found the images pointed the finger at the German non-profit LAION, which created the dataset of 5.85 billion image links called LAION-5B.

In its defence, LAION told the ABC its dataset is "just a collection of links … available on [the] public internet".

A spokesperson said that "the most effective way to increase safety is to remove private children's information from [the] public internet".

In effect, they are shifting the responsibility to parents and carers.

It lands us on a topic more divisive than wheels vs doors and that cursed dress put together: To Post Or Not To Post, when it comes to the kids in your life?

Sydneysider Bec Foley, a single mother to 10-year-old Delilah, is in the first camp.

"I'm very conscious of the warnings, but there's a part of me that's so unbelievably proud of my daughter," she said.

"I want to be able to post photos of her at the beach, or nailing a gymnastics vault routine.

"I just hate that the onus is on the parents and not other sources … grabbing those images or those videos.

"The reality is we all live digitally, right?"

In the other camp, Brisbane cinematographer Rhys Jones has a concrete rule around not sharing images of his four-month-old son, Alby.

"I don't think a lot of people are actually considering what they're doing when they're posting photos online," he said.

"Basically you are, in a way, handing over your IP to the people that control the servers," he said, although he reserves his judgement on parents who behave otherwise.

"It's a parenting issue that no generation before has had to confront."

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It's true of course that people caring for children could always avoid publishing their image or information anywhere on the "open internet", which by the way, is more places than you might think.

But if a kid's data does find its way there, deliberately or otherwise, should it be fair game for web crawlers, companies like LAION, and AI labs?

Privacy regulators don't think so. Australia's own regulator has said, "personal information that is publicly accessible is still subject to … privacy laws in most jurisdictions".

Or to borrow a metaphor from former Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow, imagine your friend leaves her wallet on the table in front of you.

"If she isn't clutching her wallet, that doesn't mean that she's saying to the world, 'This isn't mine anymore … take all my money'.

"It's the same online."

In truth, the entire AI supply chain bears responsibility for violations like these, but parents deserve less blame and more help than they're getting.

"As a parent, I want to know that it's not just me trying to keep my child safe online," Bec Foley said.

The federal government is expected to reveal proposed changes to the Privacy Act in August.

What if we could sell access to our own data?

Make sure you're sitting down for this, but one novel idea being thrown around is actually compensating people for the use of their data.

Professor Simon Lucey from the University of Adelaide describes an incentive model in which people are paid and consent is clear.

Should you post photos of your child on social media? Two parents explain their decision (1)

"At the moment, I'd liken generative AI to Napster … data has been illegally taken in [and] no-one's getting any rights," he said.

But what if the data market was more of a Spotify model?

"You can create an economic model to actually encourage people to voluntarily share their data and have ownership of their data," Professor Lucey said.

"That's a future that I'd like to see … for people to feel comfortable with how the technology is being used."

'The clock is ticking' for new rules to protect children from p*rn

It was a small yet significant moment this week when Australia's eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, gave tech companies six months to come up with new rules for protecting children from "high-impact content", including p*rn.

Brace yourself, because what comes next is quite a nerdy level of detail, but I mention it because it has everything to do with some massive policy debates right now — for example, the push to ban under 16s from social media.

Ms Inman Grant writing to the tech industry might not seem like much, but it means we are now entering "phase two" (the p*rn phase) of the "codes process" (a long slow email negotiation between the entire industry and the industry's cop, in which they come up with some ground rules).

Should you post photos of your child on social media? Two parents explain their decision (2)

Basically, the wheels are now moving to give the commissioner new powers to fine companies that don't do enough to protect children from p*rn.

It's a step that will extend her regulatory reach beyond pro-terror and child sexual abuse content (aka, "phase one").

The industry is working on draft codes now, but it won't have the final say.

"If any code should fall short … I have the power to set the rules for them," the commissioner said.

We'll check in again in six months, by which time the tech landscape probably won't have changed at all. (Right??)

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And if it's all too much…

Then meet the people on r/CharacterAI who are obsessed with their chatbots.

For the uninitiated, Character.ai is one of the most popular apps in the world.

The platform is known for its countless bots, each with distinct personalities.

To be clear, this is just the Subreddit where you'll find its superfans, not the platform itself, but they're at least as much of a spectacle as the AI itself.

Recommendations and tips are always welcome. You can reach me securely via Proton Mail.

Should you post photos of your child on social media? Two parents explain their decision (2024)

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