French parents are being warned to stop posting pictures of children on social networks in case their offspring later sue them for breaching their right to privacy or jeopardising their security.
Under France's stringent privacy laws, parents could face penalties as severe as a year in prison and a fine of euros 45,000 (NZ$73,000) if convicted of publicising intimate details of the private lives of others - including their children - without their consent.
Eric Delcroix, an expert on internet law and ethics, said: "In a few years, children could easily take their parents to court for publishing photos of them when they were younger."
Grown-ups who sue their parents for breaching their right to privacy as children could obtain substantial compensation awards, according to French legal experts.
Viviane Gelles, a lawyer specialising in internet-related issues, said that under French law, parents were "responsible for protecting images of their children."
Mr Delcroix said: "We often criticise teenagers for their online behaviour, but parents are no better."
He said that people should think about how their children will feel later in life about images of them as infants or adolescents being posted on Facebook or other social networks. "Children at certain stages do not wish to be photographed or still less for those photos to be made public," he told Le Figaro newspaper.
The French police recently renewed warnings about the danger of paedophiles targeting children after seeing family photographs online. Some parents have been forced to remove naked pictures of babies or young children from social networks.
Jay Parikh, a vice-president of Facebook, said the service was considering setting up a system to notify parents who put photographs of children online without restricting their privacy settings.
Mr Parikh said: "If I was putting online a photo of my kids playing in the park, and I accidentally shared it with everyone, the system could say: "Hey, wait a minute, this is a picture of your children. Usually you only send them to members of your family. Are you sure you want to do this?"'
The French Gendarmerie has placed a warning to parents on its Facebook page: "Posting photos of your children on Facebook is not without danger... Protect your children!".
The Gendarmerie also advised parents to beware of "chain" posts on Facebook with messages such as: "Are you proud of your children? If so, post three pictures of your beautiful children on Facebook and get 10 of your friends to do the same."
The police fear that pictures of children may end up in the hands of paedophiles or criminals who could use them for identity theft.