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"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
Ayn Rand The Fountainhead [1943]


Most recent information.

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.

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 relatives. However, other than the GEN100 concept (see below), I couldn't find any symbols or generally accepted unifying principal on the web that supported this protect-your-living-relatives philosophy for genealogists. Consequently, I created a few simple GIFs that you may freely copy to display on your own site.

In a nutshell then, these logos stand for:

  • I will protect my living relatives' right to privacy.
  • I will not share any personal details about them without their express permission.
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.

Should you decide to use one of these logos:

  1. Save any of the following logos to your hard drive using the exact same file name & type.
  2. Copy the source code next to the logo of your choice & paste it into your own source code which will link directly back to this page.
  3. Finally, upload your revised web page along with the logo.
All your living relatives who wish to preserve what little remains of their shredded, disseminated, dissected, digitized, archived, sold to the highest bidder and broadcasted worldwide PERSONAL PRIVACY will immensely appreciate your efforts!
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="deadonly.gif" WIDTH="126" HEIGHT="61" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="deadbb.gif" WIDTH="126" HEIGHT="61" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="deadneg.gif" WIDTH="126" HEIGHT="61" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="deadrev.gif" WIDTH="126" HEIGHT="61" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="deadgb.gif" WIDTH="126" HEIGHT="61" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="deadred.gif" WIDTH="126" HEIGHT="61" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="safe2.gif" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="80" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="safe2bw.gif" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="80" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="safe2tbb.gif" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="80" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="safe2new.gif" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="80" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="safe2gb.gif" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="80" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>
I support my living relatives' right to privacy! <P ALIGN="CENTER"><A HREF="http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cregan/privacy.htm"> <IMG SRC="safe2red.gif" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="80" BORDER="0" ALT="I support my living relatives' right to privacy!"></A></P>

Gen100 CompliantOriginally, for lack of a logo that specifically suited my needs, I used the GEN100 logo. I commend the creators and thoroughly support the idea it represents, although the 100 year - no information rule was a little too constraining for me. If their practice of not publishing any information newer than 100 years suits your needs, then please follow the link, read their guidelines & proudly display their logo on your web site.

UPDATE - March 2000
First, thanks to the numerous genealogists who now display one of these logos and practice this no-information-on-living-individuals rule, I'm delighted to report a continuing increase in the number of positive comments I receive that also attests to the fantastic growth of our grass roots effort. Second, last month, another concerned genealogist, Loretta Baughan, wholeheartedly joined the effort to protect the privacy of all living relatives after twice finding her own living, immediate familys' private information published on the web! Her philosophy is the same as the GEN100 folks - nothing published on individuals within the last 100 years. She has also created some free logos on her site. So now, all you 100-year/no-information genealogists have a selection of logos to choose from; the GEN100 above plus 9 new choices from Loretta Baughan.

UPDATE - June 2000
Early last year, I found very little when I queried several major search engines on the topic of privacy & Internet genealogy. At that time, the only logo I could find was the GEN100 mentioned above. Today, I'm happy to report that a current search produces pages upon pages of hits! I'm amazed by the number of individual genealogists & various genealogical organizations who have earnestly joined our effort or have chosen parallel paths. More & more (TexasGenWeb, the National Genealogical Society, Cyndi's Genealogy Home Page Construction Kit, GenealogyToday.com to name just a few) are broadcasting the dangers & even the immorality of this foolish tell-all-philosophy. Several have created entire web pages that specifically address the personal privacy rights of our living relatives. Huzzah!

NEW Genealogical Standards

Last month, the National Genealogical Society established the following set of "Standards For Sharing Information With Others". Kudos to NGS! Furthermore, the NGS recommends an excellent set of "Guidelines For Publishing Web Pages On The Internet" (see their site).

Conscious of the fact that sharing information or data with others, whether through speech, documents or electronic media, is essential to family history research and that it needs continuing support and encouragement, responsible family historians consistently—
  • respect the restrictions on sharing information that arise from the rights of another as an author, originator or compiler; as a living private person; or as a party to a mutual agreement.
  • observe meticulously the legal rights of copyright owners, copying or distributing any part of their works only with their permission, or to the limited extent specifically allowed under the law's "fair use" exceptions.
  • identify the sources for all ideas, information and data from others, and the form in which they were received, recognizing that the unattributed use of another's intellectual work is plagiarism.
  • respect the authorship rights of senders of letters, electronic mail and data files, forwarding or disseminating them further only with the sender's permission.
  • inform people who provide information about their families as to the ways it may be used, observing any conditions they impose and respecting any reservations they may express regarding the use of particular items.
  • require some evidence of consent before assuming that living people are agreeable to further sharing of information about themselves.
  • convey personal identifying information about living people--like age, home address, occupation or activities--only in ways that those concerned have expressly agreed to.
  • recognize that legal rights of privacy may limit the extent to which information from publicly available sources may be further used, disseminated or published.
  • communicate no information to others that is known to be false, or without making reasonable efforts to determine its truth, particularly information that may be derogatory.
  • are sensitive to the hurt that revelations of criminal, immoral, bizarre or irresponsible behavior may bring to family members.

©2000 by National Genealogical Society. Permission is granted to copy or publish this material provided it is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice.

 

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Copyright 1999, 2000 Jo Mitchell