7

Possible Duplicate:
What information should or can I publish to a web site?

One concern I have with recording information about LIVING persons on sites like Ancestry.ca, the site I use, is that nothing I record should be accessible to anyone who is going to use the information for identity-theft, or phishing schemes ("Help, I'm your uncle Dave in Nigeria, and I'm trapped, can you send me some money?").

Are there OTHER ethical concerns than identity theft, or phishing, that must be considered when recording information about people who are still alive, and including them in family-tree diagrams and databases that could be accessed online?

Ethical concerns might mean I should limit strictly what information is recorded, including perhaps, that one should not record the current residential addresses of persons still living, in case the online databases of sites like Ancestry.ca were to be hacked. The rules that a professional or a very-conscientious amateur would follow, are what I want to know.

Update Similar question here asks what is legal or okay to publish and is very similar. My question is different in that I am wondering if there are other things that it is not ethical to RECORD for living persons. I agree that they are similar, but maybe not duplicates. Maybe there's no difference, so if this is closed as duplicate I'm okay with that. My intention is not to share publically ANY of this information, but rather to just record it. But the recording that I make online must not be usable by identity-theft people, so for instance, full birth date would be recorded, and perhaps NOT any current address, email or phone numbers.

6
  • 1
    I think there's a subtle difference between this question and the linked question. This question is asking about recording information on an online service. The other question is specifically asking about publishing information online. From an ethics standpoint I think there could be important (subtle, but important) differences.
    – bstpierre
    Oct 10 '12 at 19:26
  • 1
    the key difference is that I am talking about what should be recorded or not recorded, privately. Note that I am assuming that what is private could become accidentally disclosed, but unlike the original question, I am not assuming that disclosure was the point. Recording the information and collecting it in the first place is what should not be done.
    – Warren P
    Oct 10 '12 at 21:58
  • As an interesting note, this is from the Ancestry.com blog "We are excited to announce the release of a new feature that allows Ancestry members to use Facebook to add information and new people to family trees quickly and easily." at blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry
    – Jeni
    Oct 10 '12 at 22:05
  • There may be some terminology issues, but this is an important question. I hope we hear some truly international answers on this.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 11 '12 at 0:26
  • It might be the title to the question. I'm not sure the difference between the two questions is obvious enough, especially for those who think of "online genealogy sites" as public.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 17 '12 at 20:29
3

The National Genealogical Society (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org) offers guidance on this topic, specifically from the viewpoint of doing genealogy responsibly.

Their Genealogical Standards and Guidelines page at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/ngs_standards_and_guidelines has links to PDF documents like

  • Standards for Sharing Information with Others
  • Guidelines for Publishing Web Pages on the Internet

NGS welcomes links to its Standards and Guidelines on other websites or their reproduction by others, as permitted by the copyright notice.

2
  • 1
    Welcome to the site. I like this answer because it contains a solid reference--grounded information. You might consider expanding on your answer by providing a summary of the findings from the referenced materials.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 17 '12 at 20:22
  • P.S. There is a related question posted. Should this question be closed as a duplicate, consider adding your answer to the other question. genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/86/…
    – GeneJ
    Oct 17 '12 at 20:27
4

My approach to documenting information about living people is here: What information should or can I publish to a web site?

In short, I don't believe it's ethical to publish any information about living people without their explicit consent (and not even with permission if that information might allow inferences to be made about other living individuals), but recording information about living people in a secure environment (local, not online) is OK.

5
  • So you don't record anything about living people, even if you're not sharing it with anyone? I don't really see a problem with recording information as long as it is kept private. (I have tons of info on living relatives, but it's all offline.) Publishing is a different story. Recording information in an unpublished "private" online database seems like a fuzzy in-between area -- I lean towards not putting any info on the living where it's accessible online.
    – bstpierre
    Oct 10 '12 at 20:32
  • I think it's ethical to RECORD some information. I just don't think it's ethical to publically PUBLISH it. Thus the difference in my question and the linked one.
    – Warren P
    Oct 10 '12 at 22:02
  • @btspierre Whoops, I meant publish not record. Should I edit my response? However, if someone uses an online genealogy site to record the information, I don't believe they can be absolutely certain that it won't be published even if they didn't intend it to, so I'd strongly suggest not doing so but keeping the records only locally.
    – user104
    Oct 11 '12 at 7:44
  • Protection from theft is not the only (or even the most important) ethical concern. I believe there is a logical inconsistency in arguing that it is acceptable to record private information so long as it is never used. Surely the only reason for collecting and recording is to enable the information to be used. The real issue is about when you plan to use it. I infer that you are claiming to keep the information secure in the person's lifetime. What about the impact of release on a surviving partner or children.
    – Fortiter
    Oct 12 '12 at 5:47
  • @Fortiter, using information is not the same as publishing it. E.g. information about living people can be (and is expected to be) shared at family gatherings. And many families (like mine) have somebody who is the "keeper of the family history": actively encouraged to record information about living relatives, including stuff that nobody wants published but everyone wants recorded. Re publication after a person's death, you'll have noted from my other response that I linked to that I don't publish ANY information about people born after 1930. (Others have suggested a 100 year rule).
    – user104
    Oct 12 '12 at 11:40
3

In the UK, the Data Protection Act applies to information stored on living people. Those who process such data are obliged to register as a data controller with the ICO. I think it would be unethical to publish information without the individual's consent.

2
  • I like this answer because it provides a solid reference--grounded information. You might expand on your comments by summarizing a few relevant points from the Act itself.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 17 '12 at 20:24
  • P.S. There is a related question posted. Should this question be closed as a duplicate, consider adding your answer to the other question. genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/86/…
    – GeneJ
    Oct 17 '12 at 20:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.