|My obligations to honor the
(e.g., Ancestry.com, MyFamily.com, etc.)
This website is hosted by RootsWeb. As such, I intend to abide by the
guidelines they have set out. If you are interested to learn what these
guidelines are, then I suggest that you read them. They are here,
for your convenience. Pay particular note to the parts near the end of
that page, regarding "Policy on the Living", and "Policy on
the Deceased". If you can show that I have violated any policy, then
please let me know, and I will fix the problem.
I also have some WorldConnect databases at Rootsweb. The same
guidelines will be followed for these databases as for the website, as per
the above note.
|My obligations pursuant to the
Privacy Act of 1974
It would seem that some people have a fundamental
misunderstanding of the Privacy Act of 1974, and all the amendments since
such time that have been made thereto. Why was the Privacy Act passed in
the first place? Why was it passed in 1974, and not earlier or later? The
Privacy Act was a direct result of the incidents surrounding the Watergate
scandal, and that is why it was passed in 1974, and not some other time.
What happened in Watergate was that records collected and maintained by a government
agency were being used against certain individuals for political
advantage. Congress decided that it was wrong to have people arbitrarily
gaining access to information held by a government agency. So they
decided they would restrict the availability of information coming out of
the government agency by passing a Privacy Act.
The Privacy Act restricts the ability of a government agency to
disseminate information. Since neither am I a government agency (viz., I
am not the NARA, the FDA, the BIA, the CIA, or anything like that), nor do
I accept funding from the government, I am not subject to the limitations
required by the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act simply does not apply to
individual citizens, private corporations, or other entities that are
neither a government agency nor accept funds from the government.
If you disagree with me about this (and are reading this), then there
is about a 100% chance that you have been attempting to invoke the
Articles of the Privacy Act without having ever bothered yourself with the
trouble of actually reading it. I am happy for you to take the time to do
so now. You can find the Privacy Act at the Department of Justice website.
To make it easier for you I have added this
link. Just click the link, and you can read it for yourself. Be sure
to read the sections on "Civil Remedies" and "Criminal
Penalties" (the parts that talk about what can happen if the Privacy
Act is violated).
|My obligation to not trample
your Constitutional rights
Privacy is a Constitutional Right. I do not have the right to
violate your privacy. The standard to reach is that of "reasonable
expectation" of privacy and "reasonable safeguard" against
something I do leading to a violation of your reasonable expectation of
I do not violate anyone's reasonable expectation of privacy, and I have
taken reasonable safeguards against the data found in my files and other
public databases from being used to violate someone's reasonable
expectation of privacy.
|My reasonable safeguards
If you look at my RootsWeb WorldConnect file, for example, you
will notice that it has already been "privatized". I
choose a cut-off of 1930 for the privatization of information because I
believe it is a reasonable safeguard. In fact, it exceeds the 72-year
moratorium on census records (for example) established by the census
bureau. Also, I do not include notes and sources for my cousins (only for
my ancestors and their siblings). Finally, I cut off my ancestor's
descendants list compilations at one generation prior that which I believe
persons are still likely to be living. Again, note that this is not a
requirement of the Privacy Act. I do this because I believe it is right to
keep some material out of the public domain, but not because I am required
to do so by law. Still, some mistakes are made sometimes, and I may want
to remove from public view some records. My intention is to not display in
a public way any of the following associations between particular
information and individual identifier:
If you find that I have included any of the above associations in
any of my files for a living person(s), then please inform me, and I will
be happy to remedy the situation.
|1. A living person's birthdate, AND/OR
2. A living person's educational data, AND/OR
3. A living person's financial transaction(s), AND/OR
4. A living person's medical history, AND/OR
5. A living person's criminal history, AND/OR
6. A living person's employment history,
||A. Person's name, AND/OR
B. Person's Social Security Number, AND/OR
C. Person's fingerprint, AND/OR
D. Person's voiceprint, AND/OR
E. Person's retina scan, AND/OR
F. Person's GPS chip ID
|Notice that the above is
tantamount to a de facto observance of the Privacy Act.
I will not remove any information from my online databases that is
described in one column of the above table that is not associated
with a corresponding component from the other column of the table. For
example, I will not remove the names of living persons from my database
where they do not have an associated birthdate, and/or
social security number, etc. What I WILL do is remove the
associated particular information from its association (identification)
with a particular living individual.
|Reasonable requests and adamant
From time to time, there will appear in my files something that
others may find embarrassing (this is true for both living and deceased
persons), or may think is a violation of privacy (in addition to those
associations listed above). If you find such a thing in my files and want
it removed, then e-mail me and ask me very nicely if I would be so kind as
to remove it, even though I have zero obligation to do so. I will
remove most things, if you just ask nicely enough.
I will not honor adamant demands of any type. The criteria is
"reasonable"; I have no obligation to satisfy the paranoid fears
of anyone. As a matter of example, let's say that your ancestor is living,
and is in my transcription of the 1930 census in which they appear. If you
ask me to remove that census transcription, and my ancestor is also living
in the same household, I can guarantee you that I am not going to remove
it. Firstly, the record is public - that's how I got it in the first
place. Secondly, nobody can reasonably expect that the 1930 census is
going to be used for any nefarious purpose. It doesn't have the kind of
information required for identity theft (date of birth), for example. A
request to remove such a record is based on paranoia, and I will not be
held to satisfy someone else's irrational fear.
|The wedding announcement /
birth announcement / phone book criteria
The fact that private enterprises and individuals are free from
the obligations imposed by the Privacy Act can be seen in your local
newspaper. Every day, there are notices of wedding announcements,
divorces, births of children, and all kinds of things that associate
specific details, including dates, with particular living people. From a
legal requirement point-of-view, I, as an individual, am at least
as free to publish material of like kind as the newspaper. An even better
example might be the phone book. Not only does it list names, but also
phone numbers, addresses, and other sensitive information, such as "childrens'
phone", e.g. I am certainly publishing information to a much more
rigorous standard than that, from a privacy perspective. So in spite of
the fact that I have no obligation to do so from a privacy perspective, I
nevertheless privatize some aspects of my file because I think it is the
right thing to do, and I am an all-around good guy. And I think that I am
deserving of credit for going out of my way to do so.
|Last Updated: October 03, 2006
Perhaps you have never thought about privacy issues regarding the living relatives in your family tree or you do not consider this a valid concern. Either way, I urge you to read some of the
materials others have written regarding this urgent matter. Then, if you agree your living relatives do have a right to privacy, please join me in this effort to make all genealogists aware of the dire consequences inherent in a share-all attitude. How? Simply copy one of these logos, paste it into your web site and adhere to the simple principle it represents.
- I will protect my living relatives' right to privacy.
- I will not share any personal details about them without their express permission.
Unfortunately, too many Internet genealogists overlook the critical issue of privacy and their living relatives' fundamental right to privacy. Before uploading or E-mailing your family's personal details, please read on.
Would you post a sign in front of your home, announcing your relative's names along with their birth dates and locations or any other identifying or personal information?
Would you submit this information to your local newspaper? Would your local newspaper even be interested? Their goals are similar to ours (Internet genealogists) in that they need their articles to be of interest to the broadest range of readers. I am certain they would not waste any ink printing my family's personal data. It's not newsworthy or even the least bit interesting, except maybe to con artists or identity thieves that can and do use these personal details in many illegal ways.
So then, what is the goal in publishing your family's personal information on the web? I can think of only one; you wish to reach as many cousins as possible. You can easily accomplish this by simply listing all your related surnames without giving away a single private detail.NEW Genealogical Standards
Even if I did wish to share my family's details with the rest of the world, it would be morally incorrect (even illegal in some regions) if I did not have each member's explicit permission to do so. Yet, unless I was related to somebody famous, why would anyone 'normally' care to know when little baby 'X' was born or Uncle 'Y' filed bankruptcy or about Aunt 'Z's' botched nose job? Their personal information does not add value or interest to my family tree.
I realize many genealogists already feel as I do and are careful not to expose anything about their living
National Genealogical Society established the following set of "Guidelines For Publishing Web Pages On The Internet"