Broadcasters warned against using children’s photographs from social media sites

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Broadcasters have been warned not to use photographs of children under 15 that have been posted on social media by their parents, if they invade a child’s privacy.

Privacy guidelines from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) have been updated to include the threat to children’s privacy from social media, including Facebook and Instagram.

“Acma developed the guidelines to assist broadcasters’ understanding and awareness of their privacy obligations under the various broadcasting codes of practice,” the Acma acting chairman, Richard Bean, said on Friday.

“First issued in 2005, the guidelines were last revised in 2011.”

Acma has told the networks to be careful not to expose children – even if their own parents have chosen to put their images online on their public social media accounts.

The media watchdog recently ruled against Channel Nine for broadcasting photographs of the children of Gold Coast businessman Travers Beynon in a story on A Current Affair about his lavish playboy lifestyle. The program used psychologists, who had never met the children, to comment on how they might be damaged by exposure to Beynon’s parties at his mansion.

A Current Affair argued that the program did not breach the privacy of Beynon or his children because of his expansive social media presence, which included disseminating the names and images of his four children on social media, including the three who were underage.

But the media regulator disagreed, ruling that Nine breached the Commercial Television Code of Practice by allowing the segments to be aired. “The Acma considers that these interviews, which included specific allegations concerning identifiable children and a reference to the ‘prognosis’ of one child by a psychologist, disclosed information about the children’s family relationships, health and welfare, that was highly sensitive personal information,” according to the confidential Acma investigation report published by the Daily Mail.

Acma has confirmed the program was found in breach but has not published the report in order to protect the children.

The privacy guidelines do not relate just to children but are designed to protect against the broadcast of a person’s private life without consent –unless it is in the public interest to do so.

But the bar is particularly high when it comes to children under 15, and obtaining consent is not enough in some circumstances.

“Subject to the relevant code, a parent or guardian’s express consent should be obtained before using material that invades a child’s privacy,” Acma said. “Parental consent alone will not always be sufficient for a broadcaster to comply with its code privacy obligations.”

In another case cited by Acma, the ABC was found to have invaded the privacy of children by identifying their parents. ABC News broadcast images of the surrogate children of a man, who was charged and acquitted of 20 child sex offences, walking along a street.

The ABC was found in breach for broadcasting the images and the identity of the parent.

It is the first time the guidelines have been updated since 2011 and several high-profile cases have been included as case studies to assist broadcasters in determining what is fair game.

The most notable of these is the case when commercial radio presenters from 2DayFM made a prank telephone call to staff at a hospital in London where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness. The broadcasting authorities eventually won the right to find against 2Day FM after a lengthy court battle.

The updated guidelines reflect amendments to codes of practice since 2011, include new case studies of key Acma privacy investigation decisions over the past five years, and update references to personal information, consent and material in the public domain and children’s privacy.

“In reporting on public interest issues concerning the activities, actions or behaviour of another party, such as a child’s parents, the use of material disclosing the child’s personal information or intruding upon the child’s seclusion should be proportionate to the particular public interest issues raised in the broadcast,” the new guidelines say.

In another of the case studies cited by Acma, a broadcaster was found in breach because a commercial television current affairs program broadcast audio excerpts of a recording of a couple fighting, without their consent.

[Source:-The Guardian]