Wednesday, October 16, 2013

P R I V A C Y • Missionary • Investigator • Yours

Privacy & Copyright Laws
Privacy Law: a warning
Presented by Karl & Betty Pearson
owners of the services of

        We live in an interesting time where opponents of righteousness are doing all they can to destroy good. Our family has personal experience with this. A family picture, on our own site, was downloaded and photoshopped, then placed on an anti-Mormon site called Lucifer is Fallen. That site's owner had put cartoon bubbles over each of us. A quick visit to that page showed us saying the most egregious and irreverent things in the crudest and most vulgar way the feeble brain inventing words for us could imagine. We were powerless to do anything about it. Thankfully, our prayers were eventually answered and the site was taken down.

So we are sending this to help you protect your families from possible damage, and even litigation, which would certainly disrupt your missionary's work, and could offend governments or their people. In the worst scenario, you could actually be the means to bring harm to your missionary.

With this in mind, and because of privacy and copyright laws, it is absolutely essential for all parents of current missionaries, or returned missionaries, to do some important housecleaning! For many, this will entail a complete U-turn.

We must be more careful about what we post on internet sites of any kind. In order to prevent lawsuits against us, to keep our missionaries safe, and also not interrupt or detract from their sacred calling, we need to be more vigilant in our role as supporters and protectors.

This pertains to all things you have posted, even past items from or about your returned missionaries!

We live in a litigious world. We need to make certain we are following privacy laws where our missionaries serve, and strictly adhere to copyright laws, too, to avoid doing anything that could result in lawsuits against us, our missionaries, or the Church.

We do not want missionary work stopped in any country because of us. We do not want governments upset at what we, missionary parents, post. Most of all, we do not want to endanger the lives of our missionaries because we have posted something online that gives away time and location! Could we forgive ourselves?

Some mission areas around the world have already contacted parents and missionaries about these issues. We've just had conversations with one such mission, and brought in the Missionary Department for more input. This page is partly because of that. But more than that, we've felt deeply impressed because of things we've learned from the personal experiences of missionary moms who have contacted us. We are not at liberty to divulge anything from them.

It is suggested that we all follow these guidelines to help protect our missionary's safety, their sacred work and opportunities for that work to continue long into the future:

  1. Privacy laws: each country has laws to protect privacy. This includes both people and government. Some laws are very detailed and have little to do with personal liberty, such as we enjoy in America.
  2. Please go through your Facebook account, Google+ account, personal blogs, and any other social media or internet sites you have posted to, and remove ALL photos that do not follow local law (where the photo was taken), or Church policy (See the links below #8). Remove all content and information regarding names, addresses and areas, contact information, personal information about members, nonmembers, or missionaries. This includes photos. If you have a blog, make sure it is completely private and nobody can access it without an invitation. Those you invite MUST be trusted not to share or forward information you post. Anyone can copy a photo or quote and re-post it elsewhere (see the first paragraph on this page).
  3. Copyright laws vary by country. Our son's mission office informed us that we cannot post a photo unless we are absolutely positive our son took it with his camera and it was not taken by a companion or another person on their camera, then copied to our son's camera's SD card, which is often done. Do not post photos if you aren't positive your son/daughter took the photo. The copyright laws in the U.S. say that the person who took the photo owns the photo. Do you know the copyright laws where your missionary is? You better before posting. It doesn't matter who is in the photo--the only person who has permission to re-post, share, or email it is the person who took it, unless they give permission. Yes, verbal permission is okay. But, everyone in a photo must also give permission, too. And that's U.S. law. Know the law where your missionary serves. There has been successful litigation against people violating copyright law regarding photos. DO not put the Church, your missionary, or your family in a costly legal situation by violating copyright law.
  4. Remove all negative comments about government, government officials, customs, or their laws, whether on blogs, Facebook, Google+, or other sites, and in web-based email accounts (email accessed using a browser). Never post negative comments on social sites. Criticism against governments about delayed passports, visas, travel papers, or the associated government officials and leaders, plus other political and social criticism must be deleted.
  5. Do not post the information about people your missionary sends home. This includes quotes from their emails, comments about companions, leaders, governments, members of the church, or investigators.
  6. The Missionary Department has asked us to add this point. Concern has been expressed by the Brethren that any information which your missionary shares of struggles investigators have while preparing for baptism should never be shared. Any time a missionary takes confessions from investigators they are acting in a similar roll as a bishop, and what they are told must be kept strictly confidential. If your missionary shares with you, please do not re-post. You should bolster your missionary in his sacred calling by encouraging him to never share those confidential communications with anyone.
  7. Facebook, Google+, and other social media. Identifying (tagging or mentioning) people in photos who you aren't your friends, or in your circles, is against Facebook, and Google+, policies and also against privacy laws. Remove these references now, even if it involves doing a search back through time.
  8. Please follow the Church's internet policy! And not just for missionaries and parents, but for all other Church callings! This means no photo can be posted on the internet, social sites like Facebook, and Google+, or on blogs, or sent through email, unless you have permission from everyone in the photo, and you have permission of the photographer, took the photo, or own the photo. This includes photos of branch/ward activities, missionary programs and meetings, activities (including Preparation Day activities) zone and district conferences, baptisms, humanitarian projects, etc.
  9. One important point is made by the church, found by clicking on Internet below. It's found under the heading, Members’ Use of the Internet in Church Callings and is item #5, which reads "Photographs of other individuals or personal information about them should not be displayed without their consent." You must heed this counsel or possibly face serious repercussions.
For your convenience we have provided links to relevant sections of Handbook 2, Administering the Church.
Our missionaries should be focused on missionary work, not on what their parents back home are posting online! A missionary shouldn't have to spend any time getting permission from anyone in photos so you can share them.

Posting of photos on the internet is a HIGHLY SENSITIVE issue to investigators and Church members! People can lose their jobs if anyone finds out they are investigating the Church. It can result in families and communities shunning the investigator.

Like we have mentioned before, there are many countries that are not as freedom loving as ours. They will not hesitate to seek litigation, or even block missionary work completely. Please, do not be the cause.

Now, for any who might think we've overstepped our bounds, consider this quote from Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a Special Witness for our Savior, and speaking for Him:

"Believers obey civil and divine laws that might otherwise be unenforceable." - CES Fireside, September, 2013

© & Karl and Betty Pearson

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