A geotagged birthday photo gives away everything scammers need to know about your child. GETTY
Recently, I’d posted a blog featuring a small, multigenerational Haystack event—a potluck for some of the children to get to know one another. As I didn’t post first and last names, I assumed I’d protected the parents and children’s anonymity. But you’ll no longer find that post—it was deleted after a parent educated me on the issues surrounding the protection of children’s online presence.
As we gather for events before and after move in, there will be many temptations to post photos of our group having a good time, kids and all. But not so fast! The same member who contacted me is in the midst of drafting a policy for our group, but what follows is the missive he sent to me asking to delete the blog post. For many of us like myself with “kids” in their 20’s and 30’s, this is something we never had to wrestle with. Welcome a the Brave New Post Privacy World.
My wife and I have had the family policy of not posting photos of our son online since he was born, not even for family, so my request isn't particular to Haystack. For us, the lack of a name doesn't matter for at least three reasons. For one, face-recognition technology is so good these days that it just takes a couple photos of the same person for sites like Google of Facebook to identify people. Second, lack of a name doesn't keep any random person from copying the photo. (To demonstrate, I snipped the photo from our site and pasted it in another photo for you). Any person in the world can snap up that photo for their own uses with two clicks of a mouse. And third, the fact that no name is listed doesn't keep someone from learning who lives in Haystack in other ways and quickly figuring out who's in the photo. There is so much of our info online these days, even for those who are careful. All in all, the lack of a name isn't much of a barrier.
As for why we care, there's a whole slew of reasons we have decided to minimize our son’s digital footprint. There is a non-zero chance that others could use his image without our permission, either for innocent but also more nefarious purposes, like identify fraud. But it's also about us thinking about his future and empowering him to have control over his own online presence. He's not old enough to consent, so we're erring on the side of privacy until he can decide for himself. There are a bunch of articles that articulate the reasons why parents might follow this course, like here and here.
Who knew? Not me. I read the suggested articles, rather wide-eyed about the facts: in late 2018, the UK Children’s Commissioner released a report called “Who Knows About Me?” illuminating the ways in which we collect and share children’s data and how that might put them at risk in the future. The report estimates that by the age of 13, parents have posted roughly 1300 photos and videos of their children online (and that might be a conservative estimate). “This dual role of parent and publisher raises a host of questions about privacy, consent, and the parent-child relationship more broadly,” says another excellent article in The Atlantic in 2016 entitled, “The Perils of Sharenting.” That article begins, “Babies, like cats, are everywhere on the web.” (Likely there are as many funny videos and photos of babies as there are of cats.)
Other arenas in our society that interface with children are also beginning to wrestle with this complicated issue of digital privacy—school team photos? Yearbooks? A journalist covering some incident at a school?
Back to the situation for us in cohousing: although we will eventually have a community policy on this issue, be sure that if you happen to snap a photo during one of our gregarious gatherings that includes children, please ask that child’s parent for permission if you plan to post it on social media.
Taking care of one another in good times and in challenging times is what cohousing is all about. Enter Pat with an offer to make a covid mask for everyone in cohousing who requests one. Wait, did I read that Slack correctly? Everyone? Yes. With a promise to hang the finished products on members’ doorknobs or send them across the country for our members who have yet to move here. In Pat’s first foray, she completed 35 masks out of 65 orders (then asked for a little downtime for her hands before sewing the rest). Enter Martha, who picked up all the masks destined for our out-of-town members and mailed them. Enter Joyce, who picked up many of the local masks to mail or deliver. Enter Martha again who helped to cut more fabric for the remaining orders and Joyce, who volunteered to help Pat sew them. Some members also made their own masks and a few for others—thank you Cindy, Gale and Nancy.
Pat ended her offer to the community this way: “Please post a picture of you wearing your mask on a Covid slack channel and on social media to encourage others to wear masks. That’s the only payment I want. Please don’t send me any money for materials or postage as this is my gift to our community.”
Contemplating Pat’s offer to the community, and the way others quickly stepped into help, should give us all the warm fuzzies of gratitude. I think for many of us who’ve not lived in community before, we can anticipate many, many wonderful and heartfelt gestures like the mask brigade provided.
Social distancing can be an isolating experience, but Haystack Heights community members have used this time to slow down and connect with one other. On March 29, Haystack Heights started hosting COCOA’s (Chats for Cohousing in the Covid Age). Three times per week, members have the opportunity to login into Zoom and share a cup of cocoa, coffee, or in the evening hours, wine, with their future neighbors. The tone and topics of the meetings have varied widely, but the most entertaining news to come to light was that our members’ most regrettable past fashion choices included dashiki's, high water pants, wing tips, afros, hot pants, and “mini, mini” skirts. Stay tuned for more of these important updates coming from our members’ gatherings.
While we aren’t meeting face-to-face these days, Haystack Heights Cohousers continue to work and play actively behind the scenes! Your blogger, Sarah, is in Ecuador where she and Doug are “stuck” for the time being—no rides home yet. Nonetheless, she’s able to report on many of the highlights and goings-on of our intrepid and caring community through delightful spying on various Slack channels. These are some of the gems she's seen:
*Zoom Farkle Night! Instigated by Mic and Mark. The first of more to come…
*We’ve continued to connect with, and sign on, more provisional associates for our waiting list.
*We’ve expanded our Slack channels, adding covid information and supporting each other (and even folks outside of our LLC) for errands and more.
*Slack channels have been very busy with frequent postings from sharing onion sets to chicks!
*We’ve converted our monthly LLC and regular team meetings from face-to-face to Zoom.
*Jeremy headed up a bike-sharing survey, with a special category for kids’ bikes.
*The Process Team tested out Zoom vis-a-vis small break out groups. Apparently, funny hats were part of the test?
*Garden projects are gaining momentum: a tree pruning workshop, pruning the climbing roses, getting ready to plant and even talk of a future root cellar.
*Joyce headed up a pet inventory and survey of concerns for non-pet owners that the Pet Polity team will be discussing in our April meeting.
*Shop news: The heat is up and running! And more: the wallboard is up! The chain link fence in the construction area has been removed.
*A newly formed open-to-everyone communication skills group studying NVC—Nonviolent Communication using Marshall Rosenberg’s groundbreaking book on communication skills.
*We’ve added new Zoom meetings such as Haystack Heights Antidote to Social Distancing: COCOA (Chats for Cohousing in the Covid Age) several times a week. 15 people participated in the very first one!
*And this just in: Pat, now with angle wings, is offering to make EVERYONE in the community a personalized mask! Not infinite choices, but certainly enough to match your mood: stripes (honey do these make my face look big?); fancy floral; Save the Planet; Peace Out; Aww?; Apple for the teacher; Picasso's version of an apple; sexy chambray!
*Jump onto Slack if you've got more ideas on staying safely connected!