Children’s Profiles – Too much, too public

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Photo – BAAF homepage, as of May 24th 2000, with a large arrow added by myself on Paint!

Before you begin reading, I have a couple of questions for my readers:

How far do you think you can erase things from the Web?

Have you ever heard of web archiving? If so, do you know what it is?

If your answer to the last two questions was “No, is it something I should be aware of?” then I am not surprised because most people are unaware of this. Everyone has heard “once something is on the web, you can’t take it off”. But not a lot of people know how exactly that works – after all, you frequently find things gone and don’t think you can get hold of them again!

And how does this relate to adoption?

Allow me to explain, using the family finding magazine “Be My Parent” as my example. I chose it because it’s probably the most popular child profiling website in the UK, and also because my Kestrel was profiled in their magazine back in 2003.

Upfront, I must say that the Be My Parent issue has in part been resolved. I found this out today and am rather relieved. I must also say that I am very glad for national family finding publications, as they do bring some families together.

Web Archiving is a way of ‘capturing’ a web page – like taking a photograph of it, and then storing it. Web archives are vast libraries of old webpage photographs. The biggest web archiving site is The Wayback Machine. You can go try it out yourself  – go to the Wayback Machine, and type in the URL of a webpage you visit. If that webpage is archived you will be able to pick the year, then select one of the snapshots, and hey presto! A trip down memory lane perhaps…

To demonstrate for you – this link should take you to the homepage of AdoptionUK – the homepage on the 24th April 2005, that is…. http://web.archive.org/web/20050424001631/http://www.adoptionuk.org/

Surprised?

Some pages can’t be archived by web crawlers by the way (crawling for the web photos is done by technology) – a page hidden behind a login screen, a results page which you have to fill in a form to pull up etc. But indexable pages (stuff which will come straight up from a search engine) will be archived.

So, how does this relate to Be My Parent? Well up until very recently, BMP was also archived and fully accessible via Wayback. This includes their public children’s profiles page…yes, that’s right. A few months ago, I could go online and pull up a copy of that public page from say, 2008. And I could view the children’s profiles. Yes really. Little Ben (I’m inventing this child by the way) aged 2, who is a little developmentally delayed and loves toy trucks, needs a family. Sweet baby Georgia (invented also) is lovable and on track. Her birth parents both have schizophrenia and she needs parents to take on this uncertainty. Photos of Ben and Georgia accompany the words.

This I saw as an injustice to those children. Who deserve respect and privacy. It also made me firmly against displaying a childs real name and photograph on a public page like that.

Imagine being Ben or Georgia’s mum now. Little Georgia, just a baby then, is now a lovely little girl, just shy of 6 years. I bet you keep Georgia’s information private, don’t you? How would you feel knowing that your daughter’s information, her photograph and the fact that her birth parents suffer from schizophrenia is freely available on the good old World Wide Web, to ANYONE who happened to search the BMP profiles page? Your childs teacher can get hold of that! Your neighbours. People you don’t care to have knowing private and personal information about your family.

It’s not ok. But it’s the reality of the internet. This blog for instance, will forever be accessible in this manner. I accept that risk. But I wouldn’t want Kestrel’s profile in public – thankfully BMP did not go online until 2007.

Now thankfully, wepages can request to stop this. It’s a request, but Wayback respect it. When I searched BMP today, the site was no longer archived!

THANK GOODNESS!

But trust me, it used to be searchable.

So I hope you are now aware of the potential impact of web archiving.

But that is not the end. For instance, BMP is no longer archived – does that mean it’s all ok now? In my humble opinion, no.

Anyone can save a webpage…record the content of it. You have save options, you have a printscreen button. Then once it’s on your computer you can re-upload it to the web anytime you like.

I can do what Wayback used to do. I can be my own web archive. I could go on to BMP right now, and save a copy of their public profiles. Saving will create a new copy of the page. I can then re-upload the profiles in a few years time, for everyone to see.

So I must say this - I disagree with the public profiling of children, using their real names, real photographs and any information which could potentially identify them. The nature of the web, means that it is an invasion of their privacy.

Anyone can view it. At ANY TIME

And lets forget the archive aspect of it – anyone can view it at the time it is public, and that also can have big consequences.

Want another example, using BMP again?

Here it is – this video (if you can actually get through it) and web page speaks for itself. How unfair for those poor children and their adoptive parents. All because the childrens profile was in public. http://www.fixcas.com/cgi-bin/go.py?2010c.twins and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REmkNGofI1o

I wondered whether I should post those pages, given that those children’s privacies have been invaded by those pages existance – but you know what, they’re already out there…and people need to know about this.

So this is why I am against public profiling in the way that BMP do it. This is not doing right by our societies most vulnerable. They are not public property.

Children Who Wait don’t do public profiles, I note, and it’s working out just fine for them.

So what do you think? Are you surprised to see this? Did it change your opinion of public profiling? I will admit to wanting to change people’s opinions – if you thought ‘it’s all great, how good these children can find homes easier’ before reading, I hope you at least appreciate the potential downsides now. I also hope to have raised awareness of the ‘permanentness’ of putting something on the WWW in public. Anyone can save it, it can be archived, that can cause problems.

I know there are upsides to public profiling, I know they can be very significant. I just believe that on balance, the privacy of the child is too important to justify it.

But I would be interested in hearing your views on the internet and public profiling. What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Children’s Profiles – Too much, too public

  1. This is interesting…Ive always assumed once out there in internet land its there forever. Im concerned in two ways: While in writing my blog Im always honest Im aware that one day Jonathan may read it and I worry that he may interpret my struggles as something I have not intended. Also, he was profiled online, there was a whole video made of him in a series called Wednesdays Child where it showed him at school playing and a lady talked about him and his needs and how he was looking for his forever home. How will he feel about it? Did his birth parents see it? Is it fair to erase it and pretend it never existed or does he have the right to know eventually?
    I dont know what the answer is but I thank you for bringing up a very interesting discussion.

  2. I think there should be representative (and detailled) profiles available because it does help prospective adopters know more about what types of children need adoption. I’ve seen a few councils etc. have really bland, non-detailled representative profiles and those just don’t help. I’m not sure about public profiles of actual children. I assumed they were all pseudonymous but it seems not. I can’t help feeling that those girls will find that profile in later life and get a really unrealistic picture of their situation.

    But for me that’s also an argument for enough information (meeting her if possible) for those girls to get a truly realistic picture of their birth mum’s inability to look after them.

  3. I find it surprising that so much information is made available on the www. I didn’t adopt that way, so I’ve never been involved in actively looking for a child and haven’t seen everything that’s out there. As a foster carer, though, it doesn’t seem to chime with the massive emphasis they put on confidentiality as far as fostered children and their carers are concerned – absolutely no pics on the internet or in any other publicity materials, avoid even telling people that the child is fostered unless really necessary and so on and so on. I agree with all this, and it’s obviously needed when birth family are still involved, but it also applies to foster carers even when a fostered child has been released for adoption, so I’m surprised to find that this sort of information is put on the internet with photos, real names and personal information.

  4. I worry that I’m putting too much information about my kids out there. Certainly I share some pretty personal stuff about Mini, and I know one day he’ll probably see it. But I blog knowing that, and I think the support, help and advice we receive as a result of me sharing that helps us NOW, which will hopefully mean we have a future.
    But…I don’t post photos and that’s where children’s profiles online concern me. Information, yes, lots, yes, but not photos. That instantly makes those children identifiable. Interesting point and I’d like to look into it more.

    Thanks for sharing this with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out x

  5. Pingback: Dear Internet… | Last Mother

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