Sat. May 25th, 2024

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A screenshot from a recent Deutsche Telekom ad raising awareness about oversharing personal data online. YouTube
A screenshot from a recent Deutsche Telekom ad raising awareness about oversharing personal data online. YouTube

A thought-provoking video advertisement by Deutsche Telekom is prompting parents to rethink their approach to sharing information about their children on social media. 

The ad, which has garnered millions of views, uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology to virtually age a 9-year-old girl named Ella, played by an actor. The powerful message aims to highlight the potential risks and consequences of oversharing a child’s digital footprint. 

In the video, AI-generated Ella candidly addresses the parents, played by actors, who frequently post about her life online without realizing the possible repercussions. “I know for you these pictures are just memories, but for others, they are data,” she cautions. “And for me, maybe the beginning of a horrible future.”

While the video itself is fictional, experts agree that its underlying message is genuinely concerning. Dr Rebecca Portnoff, director of data science at Thorn, a nonprofit organisation that combats child sexual abuse online, emphasised that once an image is shared on the internet, controlling its distribution becomes challenging.

The risks associated with oversharing, which were previously documented, are further amplified by the increasing accessibility of AI technology. Ill-meaning individuals can exploit this technology, along with publicly available data, to manipulate harmless photos and videos into sexualised or harmful content. This phenomenon is known as “sharenting,” where parents share content about their children as a means of connecting with others.

The Deutsche Telekom campaign outlines several potential dangers, including online bullying, identity theft, and the creation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Experts from the Boston Children’s Digital Wellness Lab revealed that by 2030, a staggering 7.4 million incidents of identity fraud per year could be linked to parents oversharing personal information online.

AI-driven generative technology further compounds the issue, enabling the creation of realistic replicas of a child’s appearance and voice. Predators can use these replicas to develop entirely new harmful material or manipulate existing images.

To safeguard their children’s privacy and mitigate risks, experts advise parents to share photos and content only in private albums with trusted family and friends, avoiding public exposure. Additionally, fostering open and non-judgmental conversations with children about online safety is crucial. Teaching them the importance of refraining from sharing personal details and understanding the permanence of online content will help them navigate the digital world responsibly.

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