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Austrian teen sues parents over Facebook photos

September 14, 2016

An 18-year-old woman from southern Austria has filed a lawsuit against her parents for posting hundreds of photos of her as a child to Facebook. She said the pictures are embarrassing and have made her life a misery.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The teenager, from Austria's Carinthia region, said her parents had uploaded around 500 images to the social network without her permission, according to Austrian media reports.

"They knew no shame and no limit - and didn't care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot - every stage was photographed and then made public," the 18-year-old was quoted as saying by "The Local Austria."

She said her parents started sharing the childhood snapshots with their 700 Facebook friends in 2009, when she was 11 years old. Her mom and dad allegedly ignored repeated requests to take the pictures down, and she responded by taking them to court.

"I'm tired of not being taken seriously by my parents," she said.

The girl's father, however, said he believes he has the right to publish the images, since he took them himself.

"In the end this is our child, and for my wife and me, it's a nice family album that's been well received by our Facebook friends," her father told weekly magazine "Die Ganze Woche."

Facebook Kinder Polizei Hagen
A notice from police in Hagen reads: "Please stop posting photos of your children on Facebook and Co. for everybody to see."Image: Polizei Hagen

Repercussions beyond Austria

The young woman's lawyer, Michael Rami, told Austrian media his client had a good chance of winning if it could be proven that the images had violated her right to a personal life. If the parents lose, they may have to pay compensation to their daughter as well as cover her legal costs.

Sharing such photos online and the potential impact on younger generations has only become a topic of discussion in the relatively recent past. For that reason, the court proceedings, set to begin in November, will likely be followed with keen interest. The case is the first of its kind in Austria, but the outcome could have ramifications for other European countries as well.

Authorities in France actively advise parents to keep photos of their children offline, and anyone convicted of publishing images of another person - including family members - without consent can face up to a year in prison and a hefty fine.

While the rules aren't as strict in Germany, German children can also take action against their parents for content posted online without their permission. Last year, police in the northwestern German city of Hagen issued an appeal to parents to respect their child's right to privacy. They warned that sharing certain images could attract sexual predators or create social problems for kids later in life.