Ask LH: Are iPhone Photos Of My Kids Putting Me At Risk?

Ask LH: Are iPhone Photos Of My Kids Putting Me At Risk?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a young child and take many photos of him on my iPhone as you would expect. However it recently occurred to me that all the photos (including his “rudey nudey” bath photos) are being synced automatically via Apple Photo Stream. Obviously none of the pics are remotely “sexual” but having heard some terrifying stories about very rigid application of child porn laws, I wondered if I’m at any legal risk having such photos stored on cloud servers at Apple? Thanks, Nervous Parent

Bath picture from Shutterstock

Dear NP,

The key point with Photo Stream is that it’s designed to store photos rather than share them — the images are only accessible on your devices, and aren’t made visible to the public.

This is different to sites like Instagram or Facebook which allow other users to view your photos; even within supposedly closed groups. Generally, when a service provider interferes with your personal family photos or god forbid, contacts the authorities, it’s because they’ve received a complaint from a third party. More often than not this is a busybody puritan with too much time on their hands.

Regular Lifehacker readers will recall the waterproof iPad cover video we posted a few weeks back which involved my kids, aged three and five, attempting to demolish the waterproof case in the bath. The video was subsequently pulled from YouTube after being flagged as inappropriate. You can read a more detailed account of the fallout and YouTube’s community guidelines here.

However, this shouldn’t be an issue for you as your Photo Stream account isn’t accessible to oversensitive members of the public. Basically, as long as your photos contain nothing illegal, Apple literally couldn’t care less. (Same goes for the police.)

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Ask LH: Are iPhone Photos Of My Kids Putting Me At Risk?See this is just one of the many issues with using social networking, Facebook is the biggest menace here. As for having them tell you that your kids cavorting in a bath is inappropriate, well… the world is now a sad and lonely place…! However, there are perverts out there who will sully their names for you… 🙁

  • I think it’s a nuisance how these automated cloud storage solutions are activated by default.
    Had the surprise with Google too. Not happy.

    • When I set up G+ on my new device, it brought up a dedicated screen with a short blurb about their auto-backup feature, what it did, and asked if I wanted to turn it on for wifi only, turn it on for any data connection, or turn it off.

      As I take a lot of photos of broken machines for work, I turned it on so I could snap, return to my desk and have the photo ready to go.

      Unless the setup has changed since I got my Nexus 7 (December 2012) and since I set up my mother’s Nexus 7 (July 2013), you should have got a rather obvious page asking you to turn it on or off.

      • Fairly sure it hasn’t; I’ve seen the screen many times since I regularly flash my phone.
        I’m sure this is just a case of “click all the buttons until it works” that many users seem to employ when installing software.

        • Ah yes, that old chestnut. In most organisations:

          “Look, I don’t know what it said. It’s not my job to read stuff on screens. I have a job to do, and the 10 seconds it takes, is WAY too much time. I hate computers / Computers hate me / Give me pen and paper any day”

          But frankly, I’d prefer that to the “Umm.. it came up asking if I wanted to save, with a yes or no button. Umm.. which one do I press? I’m not good with computers / I don’t like computers / Give me pen and paper any day”

          Not saying that that’s the sort of person OP is, but the sort of person you mention, tyris, is.

  • The other key, as I understand it, is that (as stated in the original question) the images are not sexual. Nudity in itself is not illegal, nor is it offensive. Context matters, and it’s why artists like Bill Henson can have their works declared “mild and justified” even though they contained depictions of “underage” models. Are you producing “pornography” (that is, material designed for the sole purpose of sexual gratification”) or are you taking photographs of your family / children? The answer determines the outcome.

  • Then there are the stares that you get when as a dad you need to take junior to the parents’ room to change their nappy.

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