Assumptions of public on undated profiles in Gedcoms

+1 vote
I notice that almost all of the profiles without birth/death dates are given public (Green) privacy in gedcom filings.  Yet these are often very young children or at least living family members that I don't want to expose even to "trusted" other family members.  I want to share what I've found of ancestors in the line, but I never want to share any knowledge, names, relations, etc of living persons.  I have family members who hate the whole idea of genealogy and the last thing they want is to see people they don't know popping up at their door claiming relationship, even if  or especially if there is one.  I've had to put all the people on my watchlist I know are living as unlisted as a result and I'm afraid the Wiki will automatically turn some of them public when they turn 13!  So, in fact I'm never going to be able to share even the non-living I want to share with others.  Is there any certain way to prevent completely and permanently (under the 100 year rule) the sharing of living members' information?
related to an answer for: New Member Privacy Level
in Genealogy Help by Prescott Smith G2G Crew (690 points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
Best answer
Hi Prescott,

The only time we automatically set a privacy level is when a profile is added. We need a default level and the system does its best guess. After that, it's under the control of the profile manager.

When we first started we made the default privacy level for someone without any dates as private, but that led to too many profiles being locked up. The entire WikiTree model depends on information being as open as possible. If too many profiles are private, it all breaks down.

It's always important to check privacy levels after doing a gedcom import. We can do a fairly good job guessing at living people, even sometimes without any dates, but it's still critical -- as it says in the gedcom-processed message -- to check them over. There is a one-page form for this, as you probably noticed.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
selected by Prescott Smith
Thank you.  That's reassuring.  But I guess I still feel the default should be: if there is no death date or birth date older than 100 years, the assumption should be living and unlisted; then leave it up to the manager to open it up if in fact they are non-living.  The living should always be unlisted unless they choose otherwise.  That has been the standard elsewhere and I assumed it would be here.  I added 1700 profiles of which probably 1000 were non-living and these should offer enough connections so the living shouldn't be put at risk. While the speed of easy connections may be slowed this way, the real work of genealogy won't, and it will be offset by those who wouldn't join otherwise.  I would be literally tarred and feathered or worse if any of my relatives thought I had put their names, let alone their childrens' names online and properly so. Best to leave the opens and public to the non-living, IMHO.

As handy as GEDCOM uploads may be, the concern you raise is one more reason to avoid using them.  But this is meant neither as an admonishment nor a recrimination.  
Certainly the privacy issue is important.  However, the concept of a totally public, totally available, totally free source for the genealogy of the entire human race is a pretty awesome and worthwhile goal - the very driving force behind why and how the WikiTree exists.  In fact, limiting information beyond what is necessary to avoid identity theft, even for living adults, effectively blocks the fluid availability of the very connections that the WikiTree project hopes to promote.  Thus what you propose is counterproductive to the project's very existence.

Your situation seems largely the result of actions that are cautioned against on the WikiTree site.  The case in point here is this:
Reading the specific upload instructions for a GedCom on WikiTree, and/or reading the Honor Code all members are reminded to abide by would likely have spared you this difficulty.

Just my opinion as a fellow contributor - I do not speak for the Team that has founded, built and continues to operate this site.
My reading of the Honor Code suggests only that there is a great concern about privacy, trust and courtesy, not what might reasonably seem to someone coming from a different standard as an unusual reversal.  There is no specific warning in the GEDCOM instructions that if you wish to protect those you have a responsibility to protect, you must not include them in a GEDCOM or immediately unlist them in the first 48 hours.  The goal of a free, open and worldwide genealogy tree is fine but it is going to be a long time before the necessary trust exists.  Why not start building that trust with the non-living?  It's not as though that isn't a big enough task in itself.  It's fine if you or those you know feel free to be open with their living profiles, but it might be well to ease into that carefully lest you defeat your own end.  I know you must have gone all over this and are unlikely to appreciate an newbie going on about something you must have put a lot of thought into, so I'll shut up now on this topic.

No need for you to shut up so far as I can see.  Your point and concerns are valid ones, and should be expressed here.  (Especially since you are very respectful in your approach.)  It would not surprise me at all to find that some additional language warning about this situation will find its way into the GEDCOM upload instructions or help pages as a result of your concern.  

So thank you for bringing it forward.

Keith Baker

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