The following is a proposal for a significant change to WikiTree's privacy controls.
It's just a proposal. This is being posted for discussion and debate. Maybe it's the right thing to do. Maybe it isn't.
Proposed Rule Change
The current rule: Profiles of people over 200 years old must be Open. All others can have privacy restrictions set by the profile manager.
The proposed rule: All profiles of people without a direct connection to a living person must be Open. Only profiles of living people and non-living people who are directly related to a living person can have privacy restrictions.
This, or something like it, has been requested by many of you, and the reasons for it will be clear to almost all active members. In particular:
- Some profile managers don't use privacy controls for their intended purpose. They use the controls to protect their contributions from the sometimes-painful collaborative process, not to protect privacy.
- Other profile managers aren't opposed to collaboration, but can't be reached for any one of a number of reasons. A WikiTree team member then has to carefully go through a process to try to reach them, open appropriate profiles, and/or close their account, etc.
Whether intentional or unintentional, unresponsive profile managers are a huge problem on WikiTree.
As explained in a previous discussion on the Public privacy level, I made certain assumptions in the early years of WikiTree that later turned out to be partially incorrect. But I have been loathe to change anything related to our privacy controls because of the risk of revealing something that was entered in good faith under the assumption that it would be kept private. On the other hand, WikiTree needs to be what it was intended to be, a collaborative family tree, and it needs to be free forever. Our restrictive privacy controls -- controls that are being used to control content, not to keep it private -- make our mission harder to fulfill.
The risk of revealing private information could be mitigated by a careful transition period that gives profile managers a chance to adjust, review, and if necessary, remove content. So, I think limiting the usage of privacy controls to living people and their non-living nuclear relatives could make sense.
We might call this the "living +1" rule. If a person is not living, or one step from a living person, their profile must be Open, i.e. open to editing by all WikiTree members in good standing who have signed the Honor Code.
Profile managers would continue to have discretion on the privacy level of profiles of living people and all nuclear/direct/first-degree family members of living people. If non-living, the profiles could be Public or Private.
By nuclear/direct/first-degree I mean parents, siblings, spouses or children. This would include half-siblings. It would not include grandparents or grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., and it would not include adoptive, biological, or step parents or children unless they're connected as parents or children on the profile. The relevant connections are the ones you see connected on the profile and the profile's edit page.
(Is "nuclear", "direct", "first degree" or some other term the best way to say this?)
At the same time we made the living +1 rule I'd envision making another rule change to expand the scope of project-protection.
The current rule: Profiles must be 200 or notable to qualify for protection.
The proposed rule: Profiles must be Open or notable to qualify for protection.
The other rules for project-protected profiles (PPPs) would remain the same.
This is a relatively minor rule change, but I think it's worth including here because many members like to keep certain profiles Public instead of Open so that they don't have to fix other people's mistakes.
You have to deal with other people's mistakes on any wiki. It's part of collaboration. But you shouldn't have to constantly fix the same mistakes over and over again.
Privacy controls aren't the right way to deal with the problem of controversial profiles. We address it through project-protection and a variety of interconnected systems and community projects, e.g. the Problems with Members process, Mentors, Rangers, etc. These systems can always be improved upon. Our community can always get better at preventing mistakes from happening and making them easier to correct. Expanding project-protection is one step in that direction.
What do you think? Do you agree with this proposal?
I'm posting three answers: Yes, yes with qualifications, and no. It would be great if you could vote up your choice and explain why you're voting for it.
Note that rule changes aren't decided by popular vote. The voting is just a way to gauge where members stand.
If you have comments or questions, please post them as comments here.