image source: bsnorrell.blogspot.com

Last night my husband called me to read an email he had been sent. Its not often he does this and it is usually something band related or one of those hilariously over-complicated beg for money emails (you know, I am the King of Nigeria and I need to store my gold in your little bank account in the UK). I wish it had been. Instead, my husband had been emailed by Microsoft regarding the photos he had recently shared on Skydrive, so that all of our precious photos are backed up. My husband was told that they had found illegal photos in one of his folders and that unless he removed them, they would delete his account.

We were mortified. Of course, we quickly located the folder in question and scanned it’s contents. My heart sank when we found the photo. The baby’s first bath at home. His body was so tiny at five days old that my husband’s hand and forearm completely covered the front of his body as he held him and the only visible part of him in the photo was his head. That was the illegal, offensive and indecent photo Microsoft were closing us down for.

Initially, my reaction was one of outrage. Can’t they see that this is a photo of a newborn baby having a bath? Can’t they see that these photos are secure and shared with nobody? Can’t they see that every single other photo in the whole account is family oriented? Then I realised: how can they see that when its just a computer scanning and not a person making an educated judgement?

Don’t get me wrong. There are people out there who would find the photo appealing in all the wrong ways. I know that. I don’t immediately think that though, because I’m not wired that way. I see that photo and I see my son having his first bath. I am also glad that Microsoft take the protection of children very seriously and that they are using software that scans for indecent images. BUT…

… why didn’t a real human being take the time to evaluate the case? Why didn’t a human being contact us? More importantly, what good is closing down an account with indecent images without reporting them to the police?

Had the photo really been indecent, why the hell didn’t Microsoft report it to the police for the sake of protecting children? If they are to scan our personal photos then they should do something about the ones they find offensive, surely? What good is closing down an account when those who really intend to look at indecent images are just going to open another one elsewhere? Is this really protecting children? Where is the human touch?

Looking back at the photo, I am glad that we have removed it (in fact, we have removed every single photo now) as it has made us realise that anybody could potentially hack into our acount (persons working at Microsoft, for example)  view our pictures and so ones of the chidren in the bath perhaps should be protected. But what are your views? Microsoft obviously want to do something about indecent images on children on the web, but are they doing the right thing? Should they be assessing each case individually and reporting them to the authorities? Am I being too over-sensitive about the whole thing? How do you protect your children’s photos online?


14 responses to “Censored!

  • Him Up North

    Microsoft scan every image? That is just wrong. I think they are targeting the wrong people. I’m no expert but the real abusers wouldn’t use a mainstream service anyway, would they?

    I keep all my family photographs locally and wouldn’t trust online services. In these days of 1 terabyte drives (for those not technically minded, that’s a heckuvah lot) I see no need for online storage services.

    While I can see what they’re trying to do (protect themselves, not children) Microsoft have implemented a one size fits all system which will give far too many false positives.

  • TheBoyandMe

    I would have reacted exactly them same way as you: panic, outrage, disbelief and then anger. I have never had photographs developed of The Boy in the bath for fear of the reaction by the person doing the developing. Remember what happened to Julia Somerville? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/julia-somerville-defends-innocent-family-photos-1538516.html

  • Kate aka WitWitWoo

    I agree with HUN (love that acronym!) about storing pics locally .. having said that, what a bunch of morons! Can’t one of the biggest companies in the world employ someone – heck, a whole department, whose job it is to deal with situations like this. I’m sorry you got that email – you must have been *so* upset. Poor you x

  • fayC

    Totally agree with you, they have to be seen to be doing something, but just deleting the account? Not good enough. It’s a sad world when an innocent photograph can be viewed in this way

  • Fran

    I sympathise with your situation & it is a sad world, sometimes. The web is a wonderful tool but it can also be a demon. I agree with HUN about storage & personally wouldn’t willingly post photos of children on the net.
    Please don’t think abusers/users don’t use mainstream services.You may never be affected, but they are there.
    The thing to do is pause before you post. eg: do I really want this particular picture of my child (in the bath or whereever) seen/accessible to millions of people?
    It all boils down to what you’re comfortable with I guess!

  • jaynecrammond

    I totally understand how you feel. As you know, I’m being sponsored by Tummy Tub, and we have some amazing pictures of Ted in hers, I mean really super. The water is cloudy, so you can’t see below her chest, plus there are three brightly coloured ducks floating in the water which would have protected her modesty anyway. I happened to mention that we had these pics to them, and they asked if they could have them for their website. After much deliberating with Husband, we politely declined as it just didn’t feel right, hanging her out for all to see.

    I stopped putting pictures of her on my blog because of a case in the states where one blogger got a call from British polish, asking if they knew a Mr. X, because pictures of the bloggers little girl were found on his harddrive. It sickened me to the point where I took all pics of her down, worried about giving her this same level of exposure.

    I now have a few pictures of her on there again, but this has kind of reminded me why I stopped, so it’ll be back to my old rules from here on.

  • Mañana Mama

    How awful for you! Seems pretty creepy that they are scanning your pictures and making flawed judgement calls based on their snooping – personally I would be irate and switch service providers. What a sad thing, to view innocent family photos in this light.

  • Mañana Mama

    And meant to say – great re-design by the way 🙂

  • Nickie

    I’ve heard of a similar incident but a few years ago now.

    HuN is right – we should be storing or backing up our photo’s locally. After all, pre-digital we had all our photos in albums (or on undeveloped films, stashed in drawers) and they were only for family eyes.

  • Muddling Along

    Honestly, I just don’t have pictures of my children online – I don’t put them on the blog and I don’t put them on twitter and I only put the rarest ones on Facebook and then with the security settings at the max

    The photos I share are sent by email to people or printed out – we reckon that’s the only way we can be certain they can be safe

    Dull, yes but there you are

  • Domestic goddesque

    I struggle to find the right words in reaction to reading this: outrage, sadness, frustration. They do say that you can never be too careful: it seems that they were right. How awful that you should have to experience it first hand though.

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