It happened again last Saturday. While scrolling through my Twitter feed I noticed a gem. The New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal’s Ottawa-based parliamentary reporter and provincial editor had become a father. As so many parents do, this one posted a picture of his new-born son that includes the details of his birth: Full name, including two middle names; date and time of birth; length and exact weight at birth.
Not only posted; he pinned the tweet so it would remain prominent, available, and hard to miss.
Now, you might think that this, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing. What possible harm could there be with a father delighting in the birth of his new son? Parents throughout the ages have announced the birth of their progeny — by word of mouth, phone calls, and birth announcements sent through the mail and printed in newspapers.
Is sharing a birth announcement on social media really any different?
In short, yes.
Never mind that the post is much more revealing than it ought to be. But consider that the precise details of William Ronald Everett Huras’ birth were delivered to his father’s 2,732 Twitter followers, and therefore to each of their Twitter followers as well. At least with a traditional birth announcement, one has to seek it out to discover the details.
Had Mr Huras posted the photo, without repeating its details in the tweet text, young Master Huras would be better off. But now that Dad added the details in the body of his tweet—perhaps out of consideration for readers whose Twitter feed is set to not automatically display images—it’s easy for any scammer or artificial intelligence engine to scrape the details and reuse them for whatever purpose they wish.
Consider as well that young William has no say in the matter. He could neither consent nor refuse to allow the publication of his personal information.
Canadian laws provide a right to privacy. That right does not start in grade school, or when children enter puberty or celebrate a certain birthday. It is a birthright.
Other laws give parents the responsibility to provide the necessaries of life and make important (and not-so-important) decisions on behalf of and about their children That responsibility includes protecting their children. The laws are not meant to facilitate parents creating problems for children.
Which is why I was inspired to privately suggest to Mr Huras the Elder that his initiative might result in a surprising outcome.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the detailed post remains a week later — for all the world to see, scrape, and scam.
Given the pace of technological changes, and the vigor with which tech companies collect and monetize personal information, it would be prudent (not prudish) to post wisely and with restraint — especially when it comes to revealing personal details about children.