Deutsche Telekom Deepfakes a Kid to Warn Parents About Deepfakes

Fighting one dumpster fire with another

Today in nightmare fuel, and with help from adam&eve Berlin, German telecommunications firm Deutsche Telekom has created a campaign called "Share with Care."

Its hero video is designed to convince parents who overshare pics of their kids online (dubbed "sharenting") to consider the consequences their offspring might face years from now. The work features a deepfake of one child, Ella, as a young adult, talking to her parents in a cringey self-referential style—like, "Hey mom and dad, look, it's future me, isn't technology neat? Here's all the ways it's not."

Except in her own words, natch.

Ella then spins through a Rolodex of horrors. These range from cyberbullying to identity theft to—the crowning glory of filial terrors—child pornography. (It's all theoretically worse than your mobile company making a deepfake of your kid to call you out in a room full of people.)

Of course, everyone here is an actor. But the scenario is still kafkaesque.

"Telekom offers the best and most secure network," says Uli Klenke, chief brand officer. "But in addition to access to this network, we also need the necessary knowledge and tools for safe and responsible handling of data on the Internet. Because the development of artificial intelligence holds opportunities and risks. In the spot, we let the AI warn us about itself. And thus, underline fascination and awe at the same time. We have to learn to deal with both factors appropriately." 

I don't think this approach is the best way for Telekom to position itself as a secure network. Many cartoon supervillains have tried proving they deserve to decide the destinies of others by showcasing their incredible power, usually through bombastic, destructive methods. (Kind of like what Elon Musk is doing with Twitter.)

So, even if this ad is fiction, why would you, the telecom—the "pipes" enabling internet access—suggest publicly that you can see everyone's data, then make deepfakes their kids while alluding to still more abject terrors? Even if it's for a good reason, it's a strange risk to take in strange times. And has time really taught us that fear and shame are the best ways to educate people? Is that what we've learned from the past few years?

Still, the approach raises a powerful point. "Every person has the right to decide on his or her own digital identity," says Christian Loefert, Telekom Germany's head of marketing communications. "Studies show that an average five-year-old child has already had around 1,500 pictures uploaded without their consent by those they trust most: their parents. This material is unprotected on the net."

Per Telekom, experts say that by 2030, two-thirds of identity theft cases will spring from this trove of indexed data and faces. A legit smörgåsbord of issues can arise from this generous hose of personal information, for which the person most affected can't have possibly given consent. (As if any of us understands data ownership, anyway.)

One thing that distinguishes millennials from other generations is that we were the first to grow up with social media, and will be the last living generation to remember what life was like before it changed everything. As social's first guinea pigs, we've formed a reflex to archive everything.

Facebook contains the last 20 years, at least, of many of our lives, even if use of it has begun petering out. Our Instagrams bear witness to our long, drawn-out discovery of personal branding, which came to dominate our thoughts when it finally dawned on us that filters weren't going to make us photographers, just better self-presenters.

There's a baby in all this bathwater, literally. In the time we've begun producing offspring, our children have become the first in a worsening social experiment. Our compulsion to archive everything also compels us to create social-media presences for our kids, cradle-to-graving them into the public eye so their SEO isn't hijacked by some faster, more enterprising kid or parent. All this stems from good intentions: The desire to share our lives with others, and also to give our kids a leg up in a digital world that fosters many well-paid careers.

There is the practice of choosing names with available URLs. One couple I know had an Instagram account for their daughter up and running from the day she was born. They count her months of growth in pizza slices, and create hashtags that pair her name with brands she wears. Another social media account I once followed, run by a pair of sociologists, documented every moment of life for their child, whose gender they refused to reveal.This was a fascinating thing to watch, as the child oscillated between various gender codes, but also creepy to consider from the youngster's perspective.

Kids in '80s TV used to say, "I didn't ask to be here!" Maybe future ones will instead shout, "I didn't ask to be published!"

"We want to prevent children from becoming victims of cybercrime through no fault of their own," says Marike Mehlmann-Tripp, who heads social engagement and group corporate responsibility at Telekom. "For all people to be able to participate in the digital world, it is essential that they can move safely, self-determinedly and confidently in the digital space. Media competence is an integral part of digital participation. That is why we are committed to promoting digital skills through numerous initiatives." 

In addition to this freaky video, Telekom is also promoting safe digital use with a Teachtoday initiative and associated toolbox. The "Germany Safe on the Net" initiative offers a "digital drivers license" called the DsiN, a certification program recognized throughout Germany that teaches people digital security skills. Telekom Security GmbH is also sharing their own tips with a special guidebook.

Learn more about what they're doing at the dedicated Share with Care subsite.


Client: Deutsche Telekom
Agency: DDB Germany, adam&eveBerlin
Brand: Deutsche Telekom
Project/Campaign name: Without Consent
Client: Ulrich Klenke (Chief Brand Officer), Dr. Christian Hahn (VP Marketing Communication Strategy & Media), Dr. Christian Loefert (SVP Marketing Communications TDG), Philipp Friedel (VP Market Communication Telekom Deutschland)
Group Executive Creative Director: 
Chief Creative Officer: Jens Pfau, Diana Sukopp, Richard Brim
Chief Strategy Officer: George Strakhov, Philipp Schwartz
Executive Creative Director/s:
Creative Director/s: Christian El Asmar, René Herder
Creative Team: Ophelia Dartey, Lars-Frederic Rexa
Sr. Copywriter: Fabio Santos
Agency producer/s: Meike van Meegen
Planner/s: Gillian Orth    
Managing Director: Christina Antes
Business Director/s:
Account Director/s:
Senior Account Manager/s: Florian Kröger
Account Manager/s:
Account Executive/s:
AR-Filter Designer: Patrick Huber
Machine Learning Engineering Lead: Denis Leonov
Media agency:
Media planner/s:
Production company: Tempomedia Berlin
Executive Producer: Uli Jason Ulbrich
Producer: Julia Moya
Director: Sergej Moya
Cinematographer: Armin Franzen
Casting: Juntke Casting
Editing Company:
Editor: Andrej Gontcharov
Post Production: SPC / Supercontinent
Post Producer: Sebastian Raphael, Felix Schröder
VFX Supervisor: Mario Bertsch
2D Artist:
3D Artist:
Colourist: Benedikt Hugendubel
Music Supervisor:
Audio Post Production: Supreme Music
Soundtrack name and composer: Supreme Music

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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