'We didn't give permission for our daughter's photo to be used. Then she was on the side of a bus.'

When Colin and Tammy Anson saw a photo of their eight-year-old daughter on the side of a bus, they were shocked.

The couple, who are the CEO and CMO of image protection app pixevety, specifically requested that their child’s school wouldn’t use any photographs of their daughter for external materials and advertising.

“She was front and centre in the photo, being used to promote remedial maths, sitting at her desk, looking up at the camera,” Tammy said.

“We saw the photo on the side of a bus advertising the school and I just thought, ‘Oh my god, I can’t fix this,'” she added.

“I felt like we didn’t protect her, that the school didn’t protect her and that we had incorrectly trusted the school to do the right thing by her.”

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As is the case for most schools, Tammy and Colin made specific requests about what the school could do with photographs of their young daughter.

Despite this, however, a photo of their daughter somehow ended up in an advertisement on the side of a bus.

“We had gone out of our way to make our preferences clear around the use of her image. We even hand-wrote our specific permissions on the privacy forms which were bundled at the time,” Tammy explained.

“But we had not been asked for permission to use that photo.”

Speaking to Mamamia, Tammy explained that the bus advertisement was something she would “never” have agreed to if she was asked about it.

“It was hard enough to convince [our daughter] to attend this special remedial class – as she was already embarrassed about it,” she explained.

“The teachers were very aware of this fact. So, to have a photo of her in that context would never be something we agreed to,” she added.

“School is a place where you send your kids believing they are safe and protected. The fact that no one took this into consideration before using her photo for promotion of a remedial class was very disappointing.”

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Although Tammy and Colin complained about the advertisement after they saw it, it was too late for it to be removed.

“We rang and booked a sit-down meeting with her teacher, who was also the Junior School Head at the time, the very next day and complained. She apologised and assured us it wouldn’t happen again – but it was too late to fix the problem for us,” she said.

“Her apology also felt very hollow at the time as she could not tell us how she would ensure this wouldn’t happen again to our daughter or another child at the school.

“There seemed to be no process in place to manage image consents properly.”

According to pixevety, schools take an average of 35,000 photographs per year.

As there isn’t currently a manageable way to give parents choice in how photos of their children may be used, children, like Colin and Tammy’s daughter, may be increasingly exposed to image-based abuse.

tammy colin
Here's an example of the sort of image a school could share online. Image: Supplied/Pixevety.

Colin Anson, who is the CEO of pixevety and a child privacy expert, shared his tips for parents when it comes to image use and privacy in schools.

Here's what parents can do as we enter a new school year:

  1. Make sure each year you're re-confirming your permission when it comes to your child's privacy and sharing of imagery and data.
  2. Whether it's your little one's first time at kindergarten or your 15-year-old's tenth year at the same school, consent should be given each year, specifying how and where you're comfortable with images being shared.
  3. Ask for transparency in terms of how your child's picture is being used and taken. (This can be a grey area. For instance, if the teacher is taking photos on their personal phone – even with honest intentions – they then own the photo. It might even be automatically uploaded to their iCloud on personal phones, meaning from here ownership and control of that image is lost.)
  4. Make sure the school specifies use, rather than just a blanket permission through a tick box e.g. marketing materials, social media, external use.
  5. Check the system for ensuring consent differentiation is met e.g. how do they ensure the marketing coordinator won't grab a photo of your child and put it in the yearbook if you've said no to this type of image use.
  6. Ask about the school's policy when it comes to sharing and storage of images.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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