Before Sharing Pics of Your Child on Social Media, Consider This

April 8, 2016 • Blog Post • BY QUARTZ CREATIVE


  • Companies like Kairos are already using facial recognition to fight crime, but the applications are endless—from advertising and payments to healthcare and travel
  • Even though the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) implemented federal safeguards, parents must also take part in cybersecurity

Photo sharing is a great way to stay connected but it’s crucial to keep the business and privacy implications of facial recognition software in mind

When proud parents click and share their bundles of joy, they can also raise high-tech anxieties over their child’s image and identity, requiring businesses developing and deploying facial recognition tools to navigate an increasingly complex terrain.

These concerns took off several years ago as it became conceivable for companies—ranging from niche startups to Facebook—to run users’ likenesses through data mining and advertising software. Though the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) implemented federal safeguards, parents must also look to individual services’ terms of use.

“It always comes down to notice and consent,” says Jeffrey Neuburger, a partner and co-head of the Technology, Media & Communications group at the Proskauer law firm. “There must be an option to be included and excluded (for users of social media services).” Neuburger also pointed out that COPPA is geared toward collection of data from children directly, and there are fewer protections for what parents themselves share about their kids.

Enterprise leaders must account for the perception and potential of facial recognition technology’s remarkable strides. There may not be an inherent (or illegal) issue with processing customers as they age, but the new possibilities of the software open new questions about abuse. It also doesn’t help that the field’s leaders have been unable to agree on more thorough standards. The burden falls on tech executives and their communications, especially regarding minors’ images.

“Matching children’s faces is generally not a goal,” says Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO of the facial recognition startup Kairos. “We spot check, and we make sure we’re comfortable with our product uses.”

It’s also important to show how these advances can improve daily life. Kairos technology is being used everywhere, with a variety of applications. Amusement parks have employed Kairos as a time-saving solution for guests to find photos taken of them on rides, while law enforcement agencies use it to fight child predators and traffickers (including organizations abroad receiving software for free).

Brackeen pursues these projects alongside opportunities in the advertising, payments and healthcare spaces. For example, Kairos can now track static faces as well as their expressions of emotion, allowing for the capture of patient satisfaction and comprehension in telemedicine—even using the results to gauge insurance reimbursements for hospitals. Of course, the scale of information poses challenges and opportunities.

“It’s a data-intense business,” Brackeen says. “But the good news is the lower intensity in other areas.” Kairos relies on load-adjustable cloud services, multiple data centers and providers and robust security. It’s a system built for growth and banking on greater public acceptance.

“This was all very sci-fi until a couple years ago,” Brackeen says. “Now we get about 800 inbound client requests a month, and we didn’t even exist four years ago.”

For a young child whose image is still in flux, transparency and care over its most sensitive issues will only become more essential. In time, we’ll realize which kid gloves should be used to handle family photo albums of the future.