Should privacy controls be allowed on profiles of non-living people without a connection to living people? [closed]

+36 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

More Details

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.



closed with the note: New proposal:
in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
closed by Chris Whitten
I remember when the text area was the "text area" and you were encouraged by the blurb to put anything you liked in it.

Admittedly there were no space pages then.  But there are two ways to play this.  You can posh up and protect the profile and tell people to put their other stuff in space pages, where they'll never find it again and nobody else will ever see it.  Or you can leave the profile open for notes and discussions and protect the pretty stuff in space pages.

@Magnus - re hardcore, db_errors etc - there's plenty of bad genealogy that shows up as dead-before-birth errors and the like.  But it can take a lot of time and effort to sort out each tangle.

@RJ HOrace
and include the Space page ;-)  

Why make it easy

DIY make your own Talk page that everyone can add to see

RJ Horace DIY WikiTree corner


"I've never seen someone punished for saying they are going to leave Wikitree, except maybe if they threatened to delete all their work (vandalize the tree)"

Well I have - me! I still have the email. And because of comments in here. (Those comments did not say I was going to leave btw). The truth sucks at times, that doesn't make it a lie - it is what it is.

I never said people who support "a more open Wikitree are impatient (and apparently poor researchers?)" either. I've said quite a lot, but not those things. Cripes ... it's a real worry how ones words can get so twisted.

I too run into obstacles and I excercise patience. It's easy to do when one puts what they want to do into perpective. What we want to do in the moment should never be assumed more important than what the manager of a profile may be up to in their world. If it is, then one has serious ego issues.

"Wikitree shouldn't stay the same. One of the reasons I love Wikitree is because it is constantly improving. If nothing had changed since I joined we wouldn't have the connection finder, error checking, or DNA integration."

I'm talking about the green privacy level in here. All those things above mentioned by you have been awesome additions as the tree has evolved, but they are not what is being discussed which is a whole HUGE different thing. The privacy levels should stay the same for all the reasons that have been expressed already, and are well founded. 

There are certain groups who need/want quicker access to green profiles, and they should have that. But not at the expense of the entire tree and what many people have signed up for and are comfortable with. Green is working! When the profile manager is active and open to collaborating. It is the UPMs which needs looking at. The policy change needs to be implemented there.


My post was meant to be a general response to a bunch of different issues brought up by various people since I last posted, and not directed to anyone in particular, but I realize now that I used the word "you" in response to a point you made.

Dale said that people that want to open profiles are: "a small impatient group" and the proposal is "rejecting those of us who take the time to do quality research and are rather favoring fast unresearched fixes." Earlier you said the "All this is going to do is open the way for randoms to add/delete potential garbage, vandalism, and it will promote a lack of collaboration." You also told people to "chill out". Maybe I misinterpreted both of your statements, but to me it seems as if both of you have a low opinion of the people who support the proposal. The proposal will open some well researched profiles, and those profiles have the chance of being changed by a poor researcher. But the proposal will also open up many of the crap profiles so good or even excellent researchers can work on them. In my opinion, that benefit far outweighs the potential negatives.

The proposal is not about Green privacy, so please stop changing the subject. The definitions of the privacy levels aren't being changed. The proposal is about which profiles require protection for ~privacy~ reasons. Like I said earlier, it has already changed once before so it isn't a HUGE thing to change it again.

This policy aims to fix a lot of the UPM problem by unlocking the profiles that are old enough where there isn't the risk of exposing private information. People normally don't care about someone else's parents or grandparents. But people born in the 1820s - 1850s who died in before the 1900s? There are likely hundreds of descendants and interested cousins. If one of these people joins Wikitree and cannot edit the profile they are interested in without jumping through a bunch of unnecessary hoops, they aren't going to stay and contribute. They will go to one of Wikitree's competitors. As more profiles get added to Wikitree the problem is going to get worse.

Perhaps it's an idea to have a WikiTree Project Profile that's automatically added to all profiles created or imported and that, even when profiles are abandoned still stays manager ? 

If it's clear a profile or a family could fall under a more specific project the project profile(s) of these project(s) could be added to it, which makes it possible we all can collaborate and work on them. 

The project profile google groups are like huge shared by all project members watch lists, it makes it very easy to work on and keep track of the profiles that have the project profile added as manager as a group (with thousands if we like) and helps if we need to size down our own watch list. (profiles we're managing) 

This way profiles will be taken care of and watched over by Wiki Tree (project) members forever (as long as WT exists and even when we perhaps are no longer around) . 

Perhaps we should do this for profiles from a certain date only (so not for the modern/younger or still living ones !), but I think it would prevent a lot of the problems people are having now with the green or other, sometimes wrong, privacy level ones, unresponsive managers and so on . 

Thanks for your continued input, everyone.

I am closing this proposal, at least for now, and opening a new one: Should all profiles of people born 150+ or died 100+ years ago be Open?

It would be great if you'd carefully consider this new possibility and offer your input on it there.

I do think we need to separate discussions of improving our Unresponsive Profile Manager system and other systems. Everything can be improved upon, and I think it may be time to improve the UPM system. But these systems can only be so efficient, given that they essentially come down to second-guessing other people's family privacy decisions.

In the standard Wikimedia software Chris use there is a talk function that is inactivated

@Magnus.. ??.Wikipedia blonde you know ;)

Hi Wikitree!

I think the extra steps to validation are fabulous! Thank you for being so thorough :) IMHO it attracts people (like me!) who enjoy getting their hands dirty with the growing part :)  Quality input without being exclusive to anyone. Win-win! :D


Marsha Crenshaw

Atlanta, GA

9 Answers

+15 votes

No, the privacy controls should stay as they are now.

If you vote for this, please post at least a sentence or two explaining why.

It would be great if you could give an example of a profile that's not connected to a living person that you think should stay Private or Public. You don't have to give the WikiTree ID or their name if you prefer not to. Just explain why you want the privacy controls for the person's profile.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
By forcing the creation of profiles for living people to maintain privacy solves nothing. The profile for a living person could be false and would just clog up the watchlist of the manager with profiles they would not want to manage. That means that you will have even more profiles that are themselves Errors.
The profiles of my great-grandparents would be effected by this, they are my dad's grandparents and he knew them, and so did many cousins, putting more information about them could effect privacy related to him, because his parents, my grandparents have also passed away.

I might have to consider leaving the site, because when I joined it was with my family's understanding that there relatives pretty much up to their grandparents would have protections on their privacy

I'd be more supportive if it was plus two

These privacy level debates in here are starting to make me feel very uneasy about wikitree. I think its jolly weird there is suddenly these huge issues around something that has worked absolutely fine until now. Apart from the data doctors having issues accessing profiles I really can't see why all the fuss. Personally I love the green as it encourages contact, and that is a wonderful thing, because that makes for fantastic collaboration! 

I'm feeling sick, sucked in, what I bought into is changing, too good a thing to last after all? I hope not Chris. I am certainly starting to wonder.


I'm voting no because I think this is the wrong solution to the problem.

It's taken me awhile because I can certainly see benefits of greater access, but I think the costs are potentially too high for this particular solution as others-- including Ellen S, Lindy Jones and Nicky Blacklock (but in the other thread) have verbalized.
I agree with Dale's point about "forcing the creation of profiles for living people to maintain privacy." It seems peculiar that I would need to create a profile for a cousin in order to protect that cousin's privacy by protecting the privacy of their deceased parent.

The single most effective way to protect a living person within WikiTree is to not create their profile. Even for living people who don't have profiles, not having an Open profile for a person's parent helps protect their privacy -- because the parents' life details could reveal private information about the child.
Nicky, even though you haven't experienced problems with Public profiles, they do cause problems. Lots of people never become involved on WikiTree or lose interest because of the difficulty of collaborating with unresponsive profile managers. Dealing with UPMs is also a burden on the team.

Ellen, I don't agree that "the single most effective way to protect a living person within WikiTree is to not create their profile." As explained on I think it's to create a placeholder profile. Otherwise a cousin could add the person.

I'm not confident that living +1 is the best way forward, but I am sure that it's time to make changes. I hope to see more suggestions and discussion.

No I haven't had any issues with private profiles .... until this week! But I'm excercising patience and believing in wikitree love. That said, I've made a note and if needs be I'll fill in the unreponsive profile manager form after 30 days. In the meantime I have plenty to get on with.

I do get it Chris, "Lots of people never become involved on WikiTree or lose interest because of the difficulty of collaborating with unresponsive profile managers" ... and so it's that which we should be focussing on. Why can't the timeframe for that be changed? 30 days is too long. Why can't special access for data doctors and the like be put in place? Maybe there needs to be a dedicated UPM team to take the burden off the folk who are trying to keep up with the UPM requests at the moment

I truly believe that if the change is made as is being proposed the potential is there for a myriad of new problems to occur. Inmo it's a given! And rather than encourage folk, old and new, to stay commited to wikitree, it may just be the absolute opposite will occur. 

The issue is the UPMs ... so lets focus on getting that sorted once and for all.

PS. And after that ... the upload of gedcoms thing.

PPS. And after that .... Please, can we have a printer friendly option for profiles? :o !! (Aaarrrggghhhhhhh)




Thank you, Nicky - I agree with you that if the problem is Unresponsive Profile Managers then let's fix that process but not throw out the privacy concerns that living Members - many of us - have!

I come back to what I and other have proposed - that we set the Green (Public) level by Date of Death not Birth so as to allow profiles whose lives overlapped with living members can be protected.

We should also change the UPM mechanism so Team members, Leaders & Project Coordinators can access such inactive profiles from unresponsive managers quickly and easily to make minor data-doctor type corrections.  Those special categories of members can already "adopt" 200+ year old profiles for project management so let's expand their abilities to the re-defined Green / Public profiles too after just 7 days if a manager does not respond to a Trusted List request.  IF a member feels someone in a Leadership or Administrative role has abused that Trust, they should be able to file a complaint - we have processes in place - for non-active Profile Managers, we could shorten the wait time to 7 days.  

I also think all new profiles should have a Mandatory Date of Birth (even estimated) or they cannot be uploaded so we don't continue the confusion if someone creates a profile and puts a Green or Yellow privacy label on it but actually it is for someone who lived and died in the Public time area.  But that's another discussion...

Thank you, Chris for actively monitoring this discussion.  I know a lot of us await a decision on how to handle this sensitive issue.
I was leaning towards the "Yes" side, but I'm going to have to go with "No". Currently, we have four privacy settings between Red/Private and White/Open: Private with Public Biography/Orange, Private with Public Family Tree/Light Orange, Private with Public Biography and Family Tree/Yellow, and Public/Green. That allows people to set a variety of levels of openness for family members between the time they die and the time they hit their 200th birthday. This proposed change could conceivably give the second-last member of a family to die only a matter of years (or possibly even hours, depending on the situation) between being Red/Private and being White/Open, and while that's not really forcing people into a binary situation, it certainly feels like it's trending in that direction.

I do sympathise with people dealing with unresponsive managers. I've run into a few myself. But we already have a system for dealing with those, and, as somebody has already pointed out, dealing with issues on a profile isn't really house-on-fire urgent. Our ancestors aren't going anywhere. Granted, I often feel pressured to get something recorded while I'm looking at a source, so I don't have to look it up again, but I always get copies of the private messages that I send to other profile managers, so as long as I give them the full information that I have found (including the source), and I get a copy of that, and can refer to it if I end up having to go through the unresponsive manager procedure. (And, if I can't be bothered including the evidence which leads me to believe that a change is necessary in my message to a profile manager, then why should they trust me enough to make the change I'm calling for? Genealogy is, after all, supposed to be fact-based.)

And, as has been pointed out a number of times, WikiTree is supposed to be about collaboration. Getting in touch with other people who are interested in the same people we are should be a pleasure, not some onerous burden. If my attitude towards another WikiTreer is, "Oh, I can't talk to you, I'll just fix it myself!", then my attitude isn't exactly collaborative, is it?

And, like A.C., I have to say that I'd probably be more supportive if the rule was two degrees of separation from a living relative, rather than one.

Thanks, everyone. Please note that I am closing this proposal, at least for the time being, and have opened a new one: 
Should all profiles of people born 150+ or died 100+ years ago be Open?


+48 votes

Yes, I agree with this proposal.

Before voting for this, be sure there are no profiles on your own Watchlist that you'd want to keep Private or Public but that have no connection to living people.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
I like this idea a lot. It seems to be less contentious than the previous suggestion. I joined to collaborate here. The idea of "controlling" 200 or 200+ years of a family seems to be against the general intent of WikiTree. I have had some newbies mess up profiles I am interested in (I tried to not say my profiles). It comes with the territory. I was able to deal with this positively in every case. The 200 year rule is just too broad. To outsiders, I think this improves the quality of information about more recent generations and reduce the appearance of multigenerational closed family fiefdoms.The +1 rule still leaves WIkiTree with significantly more privacy than most other sites I am aware that tend to focus exclusively on just living or not.
I like the idea, but I do have a question. If there is sensitive information that has been added to one of these "beyond +1" profiles that the PM really prefers not to have publicized, what options do they have? I saw the note that their XYZ relative committed suicide, and it is not publicly known, and they really would prefer not to share this if possible. Is there a private section of the profile for notes that can't be seen by others? I think this is what is being asked - can we post the majority of the profile information publicly without sharing any sensitive information that is not meant for the public?

Personally, I prefer to let the skeletons out of the closet - they're a lot less scary once we realize that they're just a fact of history. My wife's ancestor who did a bad thing came out of the closet awhile back and there were some embarrassed and awkward moments, but now it's not a big deal. My cousins who married? Awkward, but it's a fact of life (and would be nearly into the 200 year thing anyway, so not something that can be hidden either way we go about it. At the same time, I do realize that some families can be more sensitive towards these things, and I want to try to be respectful of their feelings if possible.

So - is there a "private notes" section? If not, should there be?

If so many people has secret information in WikiTree why not just add another research tab to all profiles that is Open and Public

==> We can use this tab for  

  1. add conclusions and questions and the analyze we do ==> easier to do better genealogy 
  2. add what sources we have looked into ==> 
    1. other people dont have to spend time on things that has been checked
    2. The profile gets less messy with all conclusions in the research tab
  3. profile manager can tell what our research goal is with a profile and what has been done

Why adding another tab that is open and public is better

  1. We get some part of a profile that is a wiki where everyone can collaborate on all profiles 
  2. Genealogy is about researching and gather information. This tab can be dedicated to research and questions
  3. We dont have to touch "todays" WikiTree where some people upload secret and private information that no one else should touch or read
    1. ==> easier to implement ==> less bugs
  4. maybe some people start learn doing better genealogy and communicate a plan before start doing the work
    1. Family search has research templates for different types of genealogy profiles Wikitree could have the same
  5. Other people with more skills in an area can check the plan and give suggestion what can be done



I'd have to think on this, as there would need to be some mechanisms in place to make this work and at the same time, not take up tons of more space. Perhaps a checkbox on all the profiles that would simply "link" the current information to this tab so that they are (in essence) one and the same. It sounds like for most profiles and for most PM's, this wouldn't be an issue. But for those few where there are concerns about sharing, the box could be "unclicked" and 2 separate streams of data could be generated - one private - one public. Possibly a place where all the profiles could be selected to enable (or disable) this for all your profiles at once. It might be easier if we all agreed that re-checking the box (to re-sync) after a period of time would merge the private and public info.

It wasn't exactly what I was thinking of, but I think I could make it work. Personally, I'd be less likely to use this, but I can see where some might want this.

@Scott this tab is the tab that is already implemented in the Wiki Software that WikiTree runs but deactivated by Chris in the beginning as he thought it was complicated. You should not duplicate the information it should be used for research and comments and plans see Wikipedia talk example

Compare the Wikipedia talk page

  1. WikiTree profile Coverdale-139
    1. is "same as" Wikipedia ==> Myles_Coverdale
      1. that has a Wikipedia discuss/talk page Talk:Myles_Coverdale

        On the talk page
        1. They inform what projects relates to this profile
        2. that a paragraph was deleted
        3. a incorrect citation
        4. problems with understanding
        5. comments about the quality of the article as an encyclopedia article
        6. that a notification banners will be removed

If we should start to collaborate more than "fixing db_errors character problems" then we need tools to collaborate. G2G is one way but I think a talk page is better

Ah - I've used these on Wikipedia. I understand now. I would still want to keep my "yes" vote, but I think the Research Tab would be a tangential discussion to this one. It is an interesting proposal, though.

I also vote yes but I feel WikiTree is far away from beeing a collaborate genealogy site when we never discuss how to 

  1. Collaborate better
  2. What tools to use
  3. What is a good research plan
    1. How does a research plan differ for a person from Germany versus Seattle or Soldier and a Blacksmith 

Instead we speak about protecting profiles and secrets....

Fixing db_errors is not what I call collaborating about genealogy it's more cleaning the real dirt.... is my humble opinion.... doing genealogy is much more complex than that


I miss a vision of how WikiTree could be a good tool for collaborative genealogy. The discussion about protected profiles feels more like traditional genealogy.....

we need to think outside the box. 

WikiTree has a great potential 
bigger than Wikipedia

If wikitree wants to maintain it's position as the most credible One Family Tree, then it needs to deal with privacy controls.

I don't feel this is a perfect solution but as it is much better than the status quo, I support it.

We also need to consider the sensibilities of our membership, Mark.

As for the privacy levels, I feel that better clarity in their definitions is all that is needed. But this proposal, as stated, seems to be geared mainly toward catering to outside interests more than the specific needs (including emotional factors like peace of mind) of our special community.

Hi everybody. I want to make sure you see that this proposal is being closed and a new one has been opened:
+19 votes

I agree, but with qualifications or suggested changes.

Perhaps you would propose a different rule with the same general intent?

Other ideas for opening additional profiles have been floated. We could say that all 150-year-old profiles must be Open, or that all profiles of people born before 1900 must be Open. The former has the advantage of merely adjusting the current rule's date; the latter might fit nicely with how we have pre-1700 and pre-1500 rules.

I prefer living +1 because it's not as arbitrary, and it doesn't make birthdates so important. Technically speaking, I think it could be enforced more consistently with fewer errors. But there may be things I'm not thinking about.

Keep in mind that simplicity is very important. We want the rules to be easy to understand and apply. WikiTree is already too complex.

For example, it might be tempting to say living +1 for Private, but living +2 for Public. Or to have some rule about who can keep profiles Public instead of Open, e.g. only active members should be able to use Public. But the more complicated it is, the harder it is for users to understand and the harder it is for our systems to enforce. That's not to say that we can't have a more complicated rule than living +1. It's just that simplicity is an important consideration.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)

Here you have a video of how I see your tree


>> And I believe I have an ethical responsibility to protect their identity to the best of my ability.

Then dont add anything is my suggestion. As CIA has problem with security why should not WikiTree has that is run as a hobby project...


@Laura, Mangus just created a nice video of YOUR tree if you want to click on the video link above ;-)

"It's in our Honor Code to respect privacy, and members have multiple Privacy Level options to control what information is shown publicly, including "Unlisted" where the name only appears for members of the Trusted List. "


"If a name is being omitted for extra privacy, use Anonymous or an initial. "

Straight from the Name Fields page.  You may harass my personal opinion on protecting privacy for living people, but I am following Wiki rules to the letter (as are many other people who use only first initials for the public view)

Wow, Magnus, that is really cool.   Since I only show people who are dead in the generations closest to me, that information is already out there in public domain.  I never use family names for security reasons on any kind of accounts because they are far to easy to search and find.  

Who was the Schweigoff or something like that?   No names like that are on my watch list and I do not remember adding any.  So not sure who the merge was... when I run my merge report and error reports they are generally blank.  I had a few that past week that I already fixed but not that name...  Just being curious!
Emma,  I am just trying to understand what people are looking at and how data is actually displaying.  I have recently opened up my parents as they are both dead.  Plus it helps with the DNA research.  

I think if you want to use stronger privacy settings for close relatives that is fine.  I just don't show names for anyone living.  Except myself.  And that was by choice because when I tried doing the privacy thing I kept running into roadblocks for other things I wanted to be able to do on WikiTree and it was just easier...  besides my name is out there tons of times in cyber space because I moderate or co-moderate several genealogical lists and boards and serve as an officer in an international genealogical association.  So, much for my privacy!
@Laura--For red privacy level--here is where the confusion comes from:  When you click on "Public profile view" on a profile (while logged in) it shows the person's first and last name and their decade of birth.  Perhaps this information is available for merges?  But when I go to a separate browser and log out of Wiki it shows [private father] 1950s-unknown.  I have assumed the first and last name were showing to the public all this time because this is what the "Public Profile View" tab shows me.
Hi Emma,  That is why I asked because when I switch from private to public view I do not see anything at all about my husband... no names... nothing.

At least that is what I saw on my watchlist...  I wonder if the views change by what you are doing?  That is why I said I am confused... I see people posting things that I am not seeing...  which is why I am asking to see what others are seeing and under what conditions.  I believe people are seeing what they are saying but I do not think everyone is seeing the same thing and I wonder if it has something to do with marking the person as living too...   just trying to understand...
I agree.  If I'm sure someone is living, I usually do not create profiles at all. If I think they are likely dead, but not sure, I create them and the lack of a death date generally defaults them to red.  Occasionally, I create a profile for someone I know is living because I want to save a publicly available source for later or for family members who I expect will be put on a trusted list.  Occasionally, I also create a profile for someone living because its necessary for reasoning on another profile of a dead person - usually something like the census saying a mother has had x children only y of whom are living which helps to support that a the dead person's parents are the same parents as the living person.

1. I agree with @Magnus Sälgö's proposal here and 1 year ago about the research tab. Honestly I would like that and find it useful to start, and I think that using a "Talk Page" would be good. Moreover, there should be an etiquette around it: any new information should be added there, to the talk page, first if the person adding it is not the profile manager. Simple as that: a truly clear-cut rule. Human endeavours need etiquette to help sustain mutual trust, acceptable boundaries and so on. 

2. I am unclear about what you mean by just "protected". Project protected is one thing, but will there be some other means to protect particular profiles, e.g. from vandalism or other issues, when the profile doesn't fit under a particular project? I hesitate to add real black sheep for fear of misguided actions by others. There should be a means to know before adding a profile if we can ensure that it is protected. To me that's also a matter of justice and fairness. 

3. Lastly, the "+1 rule" is in reality difficult to enforce and may require / force me or others to disclose private information. For example, say that out of principle, one does not add living relatives to the tree aside from self + anonymized parents. If said anonymized parents are dead, grandparents would then appear to be outside of the +1 rule, but the person could be intentionally not including one or more living aunts or uncles. Should they be forced to disclose the existence of a other descendants of their grandparents in order to protect the privacy via the grandparent profiles? It seems wrong to me ethically to force people to disclose information about other living relatives

4. A more graduated system would be better: +1/+2. e.g. +1 is guaranteed protection (whatever that means), whereas +2 is fully open unless problems exist. Also +1 can be a deeply meaningful connection, e.g. a person with their grandparents. It seems a low likelihood of improving the overzeaously protected profile situation here, since grandparents would mean only that one is arguing with first cousins, all of whom have my phone number, email, Facebook, etc... ! There can't be an "unresponsive profile manager" at that point. 

5. In keeping with the above, I see Chris' proposal as showing a generational bias, i.e. it might be reasonable for older generations but unreasonable for younger generations. Hence I think that a date cut-off should still be worked in. More complicated, but fairer.

6. I appreciate that the "agree" response wasn't placed as the first. Thank you, Chris.

Thank you, guys. I appreciate all the input on these discussions. We have a great community here.

For the time being, at least, this proposal is being closed. Here is a new one:
+8 votes
I agree with the proposal.

The weekly error report I receive is rife with simple errors, separators in first name, incomplete FindAGrave links,

Most, if not all of them are public, but not open. There's no point in putting them on my error list if I can't correct them
by Tom Bredehoft G2G6 Pilot (194k points)
Hey, Tom, if you agree, did you "up vote" the Yes answer above??
My error report is rife, too, but with non-errors.  The only things on my error list are unusual first names and lines of equal signs used as separators in comments that never show on the view pages.

Before the error project started, all non-living profiles I manage were open.  Now I have changed it to public on a few of them that seem to have become magnets for the overly fanatical people who seem to think they are doing something good by "correcting" these things that cause me a lot of extra work to un-correct what seems to me is effectively vandalism, even though I recognize that their intentions are the very best.

Bottom line - I would be in favor of this ONLY if there were also better controls on the error correctors, who now run rampant changing things that are not incorrect.


For me working in a Wiki is about working together and cooperate and communicate....

Question: Is there no way you can better communicate your conclusions of the facts you use so people in the db_error project understand?

Or do you believe they are changing because they would like to harm your profiles?

I think WikiTree is wrong implemented as long we dont have discussion pages for each profile. Maybe we should have a discussion tab on all profiles that is open...

We do have a "discussion tab" for each profile. It's called g2g.

Gaile has discussed her concerns on g2g-- basically it's over eager error doctors making stupid changes to her narratives that she then has to revert.

@Jilliane Smith yes but....

If you compare G2G and what is included in the standard Wiki Software I feel standard Wiki is better for discussion and research than G2G. Compare the talk/discussion tab for genealogy. You can follow a discussion much better and often its more interesting to read than the article...

Chris decided to take away the discussion tab in the beginning and I feel that is a bad decision. When you start do more advanced research other people need to be able to follow what has been done and ask questions...

Over eager or unskilled data doctors I guess a discussion tab could help... if you decide that just the discussion tab is open it will certainly help...

My point is open up a new discussion tab on every profile and best would be if we had it also as a research plan


First, my name does not start with the non-alphabetic character you used.

I have gone to great lengths to state everything very clearly in profiles but my experience has been that the people making these incorrect changes do not spend enough time to see anything there other than what they are changing (based on the rapid fire entries on their contributions lists).  My impression is that they go through a list of all errors with one error number and just "fix" them all with no regard to context.

I am very nervous about the risk that I am taking by giving an example here in case people declare open season on making changes to it, but the profile I just finished working on has everything I expect will trigger a lot of misnamed "errors'.  THIS PROFILE has a very short biography - only 3 brief sentences, but it has extensive notes explaining the eight first name variants, all likely "unique names" and several different versions of place names for birth, marriage, and death that are all explained in a "Notes" section and even have links to sources of the explanation.  The sources section includes all the data found in the records being cited because (a) a membership is required to use the website where they are found and (b) a direct link cannot be provided to the page displaying the record - the link is only to the search page on the site.  The result is that there will probably be numerous "errors" stating that information is duplicated, based on labels like "name" and "place" for the data items in each citation.  Finally, there is a comment section on the edit page with notes that I will use when I add a profile for another family member.

This profile is open, as all profiles of deceased persons that I manage start out, and I welcome contributions that increase the information I have knocked myself out for several days to find and compile for this nuclear family (I will soon be adding profiles for the 5 children), however if anyone makes changes to "correct" something that I worked very hard to find - and meticulously explain - then when I repair the damage, I will change privacy to public to prevent further occurrences.  I am very strongly against removing my ability to set public privacy as long as members are encouraged to make changes to things they either don't understand or have not taken the trouble to investigate, and without contacting an active manager, just because some flawed algorithm designates it as an "error".

​Magnus, please do not try to offer alternative suggestions for how you think I should deal with this.  I have shared my feelings here, which are not open to change.  I shall not comment further.

@ ==> is just telling which person you answer....


A Wiki with protected profiles is for me no wiki by definition see concept of a Wiki

I believe the best genealogy is done if we collaborate... I hope WikiTree will move away from a lot of connected private unsourced profiles to a open collaborative community. IF lesson learned is that people don't understand the research done then we either

  • need to train people

  • make WikiTree better so people understand what research has been done... 

As Louis Heyman says most people give up rather fast using WikiTree which is something that needs to be addressed... 

My vision is that a wiki working as a collaborative tool is the solution.... together we can help each other...

+6 votes
Absolutely! Sometimes the profiles we make are for strangers in a local cemetery or a local 1940 Census. We don't know who their living relatives are, but we need to assume they have some. Often if I know who the living children are, I don't even make a profile for them, I just say "has living children" or "one daughter still living".

I actually gave up photodocumenting my local cemetery because I was afraid some living relative might find me and have a fit. I know my 90 year old parents would be horrified if I put their information on the internet, and I am sure there are plenty of old people in my town that would feel the same way It might even leave widows I am unaware of open to scam artists.

That being said, I think Green is enough privacy for anyone dead more than five years. I think Green should be the privacy for ALL dead people, at least back to 1750.

Sharon Troy Centanne, genealogist for almost 38 years
by Anonymous Troy G2G6 Pilot (155k points)
Cousin Sharon,

Why do you think green should be the default privacy setting for all dead people at least back to 1750?
Because it is better to hear from those that want to collaborate with you. When folks ask for access, I give them access to the whole fomily.
That dumps your whole family into their Watchlist.  This is why Data Doctors don't ask to join TLs.
Very true, RJ. Sharon did this very thing to me once, probably not understanding the impact of that. My watchlist went through the roof and it took me awhile to remove myself from those profiles. Could use some but not all of the bulk tools because her roots and mine are so entertwined. So Sharon, you should never add an entire family to someone's TL without their permission or without them asking. in fact, I wish that capability was modified, requiring permission first.

Sharon, I appreciate your intent, but you're describing using the privacy features for control, not for privacy.  That is not their purpose.
+9 votes

Well, it's time for my vote, which does not fit within the 3 choices given.

I vote AGAINST the proposal as stated and defined. I feel it addresses the wrong side of the problem, which I see is how to open locked profiles that have no manager without creating new problems for managers who are properly tending the profiles they manage. THIS problem exists at ALL privacy levels, not just the Public level. Therefore, we need to create a procedure to deal ONLY with this specific problem area.

by Lindy Jones G2G6 Pilot (218k points)
Yes!  Totally agree.
Great idea!
I agree that the issue of locked profiles with no or unresponsive profile managers should be addressed separately from tinkering with the privacy levels at this point. There seems to be general agreement that this narrower issue is what needs addressing at this point.  There is clearly not general agreement at this point on tinkering with the privacy levels in a more general and broader way.

I thank my growing legion (up to 7 now) for their support of my views on this discussion topic!

I now see an even clearer picture of the root cause of the problem(s) we are trying to address. That root cause is that the Unresponsive Profile Manager procedure is being used as a One-Size-Fits-All solution for problems that it can't (any should not have been intended) fix!

If you have a problem with a non-responsive manager when you request a merge, ask for trusted-list access, or want to link family members together, then the UPM procedures are your solution when dealing with a relatively active manager.

But for a profile that is orphaned or which has a long-term inactive manager, the UPM procedure is not a proper solution. That system only becomes clogged, delaying not just these orphaned/long-term inactives requests, but also the simpler requests for which it is geared.

I believe we need to build a NEW procedure to deal solely and specifically with the orphaned/long-term inactives problem directly and without eliminating the Public privacy level than my legion and I (and others!) feel is the final buffer level between the other privacy levels and the open level.

We can still work on other improvements, including tweaks to the various privacy levels, without creating stress and worry that our work is being ruined; without creating distrust and animus that our contributions are not being appreciated or respected; and without creating disappointment and frustration that causes great fellow members like Dale to want to leave!

We need to weigh the benefits of solving our various problems more directly (such as better solutions, fewer conflicts, more productive use of each member's time) against the costs - financial as well as human (such as losing valuable members and creating an atmosphere of distrust and less willingness to collaborate).

I'm one of those 7 and I do agree with focusing on the real problem rather than the green lock.  But there is no fix for WikiTree in the works with regard to the biggest problem for me.  And that is that the overwhelming majority of the profiles just aren't worth the time it takes to load the page.  And I think that is what Dale is realizing too (even more than just this one topic) and  Magnus too - that the wiki gizmos and games get all the attention here while the serious genealogist is totally frustrated with the lack of good information on the profiles.  Db_errors cant fix the big problems - it will take smart humans willing to work at it.  There is no point in having a collaborative tree if it isn't based on quality, unless it's just for entertainment.
Mikey, I wish I could up-vote your post.

WT needs a massive purge of crap profiles then programing rules that wont allow new profiles without a minimum of sourced data.

Yah, yah I know that kills all the fun of dumping hundreds (thousands?) of scraped incomplete profiles from Ancestry and Gravestone sites so a member can score points and badges and puff up their self-esteem. The data here needs to be cleansed soon. Better to bite the bullet now to avoid a future meltdown.
The Public / green privacy level is not being eliminated. That was determined in the last discussion. This discussion is proposing to make an adjustment to which profiles can have a privacy lock.

Why would an orphaned profile need an UPM request? It has no profile manager.

I agree with Mikey that a good portion of profiles are worthless.

The first step to fix this is to open up the junk profiles so they can be improved. Then we need to stop more junk from getting in, add protections for verified data, and reduce gamification. Improper use of the privacy levels is protecting a lot more junk than it is protecting well researched profiles.
+7 votes
At present many profiles are Green because they were created that way by the system, not because their PMs did it.

What I'm not clear about is to what extent the new rule would be implemented in software.

For instance, dead people are sometimes turned Red by accident, because the system temporarily thinks they might still be living, and then they have to be set back manually.
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (568k points)
+9 votes
So, Chris, how are you going to decide? Have you made a pros/cons list? Inquiring minds would love to have some window on how you will make the decision on this one. Thanks.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (781k points)
Hi Jillaine. I'm going to be closing this proposal shortly and posting a new one. These proposals are fairly open windows on my thinking. :-)
+8 votes

 Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

by Eddie King G2G6 Pilot (599k points)

Desiderata is one of the only poems I've ever had memorized in my life, and certainly the longest.

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