Should all profiles of people born 150+ or died 100+ years ago be Open? [closed]

+35 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

The following is a proposal

The current rule: Profiles of people over 200 years old must be Open.

The proposed rule: Profiles of people who were born over 150 years ago or who died over 100 years ago must be Open.

I am closing this other recent proposal, at least for now: "Should privacy controls be allowed on profiles of non-living people without a connection to living people?"

And this one was already closed: "Should we eliminate the 'Public' privacy level?"

Here we are talking only about changing the 200-year rule to 150/100. We would not be changing anything else about the usage of privacy levels as explained on

For those of you who haven't been closely following the previous discussions, I will summarize why privacy changes are being discussed and the case against the previous proposals.

Before I do that, let me emphasize that this is just a proposal. No radical changes are about to happen.  This discussion may ultimately result in a significant change to WikiTree's privacy rules. Or it may not. Even if it does, it would not happen overnight. There would be a transition period, a system for informing members, etc.


The basic problem being addressed will be familiar to active members.

Our current rules technically allow, say, a profile of a person born in 1818 where there are no reasonable privacy concerns to be set as Private. Profile Managers do this unintentionally, or intentionally so that they can control the profile. We have a lot of policies that say this should not be done, but we do not have a policy that can stop it. This is a huge impediment to collaboration.

Collaboration is what WikiTree is all about. We knew this from the beginning, when WikiTree was started almost 10 years ago. However, we didn't know all the systems and policies that would best promote genealogy collaboration. We have had to figure these out over time, with the community.

I think we have made great progress. I am proud of WikiTree and the genealogy collaboration that happens here.

However, our privacy rules have never been improved upon much, even after it became very clear that there were serious problems with them.

Privacy rules are hard to change. They are promises. People enter information here with an understanding that certain things will be kept private. We can't simply change around what will be private.

It's not that we can't make changes to our privacy rules. It's just that changing the rules is hard. It has to be done very carefully. So we have procrastinated and worked on other things. At this point changes are overdue.


A few weeks ago we proposed eliminating the "Public" privacy level.

Over the years, I personally became embarrassed by Public. It felt anti-wiki, like a sop to those who aren't fully comfortable with genealogy collaboration. It didn't feel like a legitimate privacy level. After all, a Public profile doesn't keep any information private. The only difference between Public and Open is that you need to be on the Trusted List to edit a Public profile, thereby giving the Profile Manager more control over who edits it. But we had long since established the rule that privacy controls are for privacy, not control.

In the discussion on removing Public, Ray Jones and others explained that there is a privacy rationale for using Public. It's not that it keeps information on WikiTree private, it's that it can keep information from being added to WikiTree. By requiring more communication, it slows down those who might add certain things that the family would prefer were not added.

Since this rationale mainly applies to profiles of non-living family members who were directly related to living people, we then proposed to limit Public and Private to profiles of living people and non-living people that are directly connected. In other words, Public or even Private could be used for the profile of a person who had passed away long ago, but only if that non-living person was the parent, sibling, spouse, or child of a currently living person.

This proposal was fairly popular, but even among those who favored it there were lingering doubts. It would mean opening up a lot of profiles of people we knew intimately. We can have strong emotions about people who are a few generations removed from us.

There's been some discussion of softening or making exceptions to the "living +1" rule. Maybe living +2 would be better. Or maybe there could be a date-based exception such as "Profiles of non-living people without a direct connection to living people must be Open unless they were born in the past 100 years."

However, most variations would either be hard to enforce, technically, or hard for members to understand. Simplicity is very important and WikiTree is already too complex. Moreover, I'm not sure that these variations would end up opening significantly more profiles than the simplest and most obvious change: shifting our existing 200-year rule to something more reasonable.


So, what do you think of this proposal, i.e. that all profiles of people who were either born 150+ years ago or who died 100+ years ago be Open? Would you prefer something different, or no change at all?



P.S. I am posting three answers (Yes, Maybe, and No) as an informal poll. Please vote up your choice and explain your answer. Thanks!

closed with the note: Decision made:
asked in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
closed by Chris Whitten
Privacy controls aren't for preventing inexperienced people from editing a profile. They are to protect privacy.

If a member does something you don't like there is a way to handle that:
Yes, that is a great theory, Jamie, about what Privacy is *supposed* to be for.

But as I noted above, I don't have time or interest to keep chasing down Problems with all the new Members who keep getting ushered into the door with almost no effective mentoring, and no probation period.

It tries my patience beyond capacity. So if the goal is to become an even wider open wiki, then I am becoming more against it, because not enough is being done to guide and manage and put some brakes on those newbies who do radical things to wide and deep parts of the tree in utter violation of the most basic tenets of collaboration and communication.
It's not a theory. It's stated on the privacy page and also in this proposal post. People using the privacy controls for the wrong reasons is part of the reason why the public / +1 / 150+/100+ proposals came about.

We all make mistakes, even if we have been here a long time. I don't like it when someone uses a family tree as the only source, or removes the references tag, or rejects an obvious merge because a date was different by a day. But I assume people aren't doing these things on purpose, they just don't know any better. If they mess up a profile I'm managing, restoring the profile takes less than a minute, and communicating with the person usually stops the person from making the mistake again. Locking the profiles from all edits is not the answer.

Hi Steven I think you missed the New Member How To Help  ?  Eowyn and Julie have done a great job and still are working on it, it's now 'tested' ..

There's also a new project, the Messengers, the messengers are going to work with the new members and send the messages, and guide them, so we now have an introduction course for all new members to make sure new members learn everything about WikiTree and /or Genealogy right from the start ! :) 

Thanks for that, Bea.

And furthermore, this rule changes does NOTHNG to solve the current collaboration problem, which is the many millions of legacy profiles that are locked down in a Privacy setting in the 1800s.

When WikiTree started, the rule was that Privacy could be allowed on back to 300 years. That quickly proved to be a disaster, since many people did that, with their massive gedcoms. so the rule was changed to 200 years.

BUT, the only TECHNICAL fix to deal with the legacy locked down profiles was to mass orphan them. So then millions of branches were opened up for adoption, which became somewhat of an equal problem, because all sorts of reckless and controlling people like to adopt, and then do sloppy merges, etc.

To force such orphaning now, per the new rule, will be a nightmare. I can tell you for a fact that aside from orphaning, the ONLY way to force a legacy profile to conform to the Open Privacy rule, either the newly proposed one, or the current 200, is do any data edit on the profile, one profile at a time. So that leaves millions of existing legacy profiles, which will STILL will not be easily resolved for collaboration, under the new rule.

And frankly, the greatest incentive for this rule change is the mass frustration about the non-collaborative status of those legacy profiles.
I agree orphaning is not a great solution, so I have proposed perhaps we should have a WT project profile that automatically would be added to each profile that's imported or created and that stays manager even if managers remove themselves, this way if it's clear profiles might fall under a project the project profile of the proper project could be added as manager by perhaps the WT project profile and the advantage would be, even if privacy is an issue, we all still would at least be able to add sources and clean up and improve these profiles and families, so a profile will always be taken care of/for and watched over by project members, for as long as WT exists, so even when we all perhaps are no longer around ;)
And again, another issue with newbies. This one has been around for a few months, and has been awarded all sorts of power badges. So now with little experience, they are doing data doctoring, with (Edit Separators in First Name (Database Error Program 721).

That ambition is admirable, I suppose, but the doctoring they did involves deleting the patronyms from New Netherland profiles, because they have been imported with the parenthetical separators after first name. Other instance were to move the patronym to nickname field, which is not quite proper either.

I have had to chase after quite of few of these misguided data doctor edits.We project members will properly get to these profiles in time. But the issue again is WikiTree allowing the rush of new members into areas that they have no experience with, and have little adequate knowledge about.

In this case it is not a huge big deal. I am just trying to make the point again that there is a persistent problem with the learning curve of newbies. WikiTree needs to seriously address that, as a higher priority than making it more wiki as fast as possible for all the new people.

Thanks Steven. You adress the real issue which is WikiTree's admirable but sadly unrealistic ambition to include new contributors with little experience in many aspects of it functioning, from greeting to data doctoring even to leadership. Though much has been improved and projects seem healthier and more viable than three years ago, you show just how vulnerable WikiTree profiles and projects are to unguided and misunderstood editing. There has been so many good recommendations from well versed people such as you. Many of those ideas include giving WikiTreers time and the means to learn (and I'm not only speaking of self-teaching video's and self-certifying exams). Which includes measures to not include them (i.e disallow) in certain facets until such time as they have proven that they have learned the skills.

Thank you Philip. I think a simple series of forced timeouts from the start, for everybody equally, would be the most elegant solution.

It can be relatively painless for them, it will give them the clear signal that this stuff is serious, so that they will take it more seriously when they do get in, it will give them a feeling of pride when they do pass the barriers, and it will give them time to practice on their own close relatives first, to learn how to do things best. And they will also learn which things are potential trouble.

We need to put brakes on newbies from doing the following things, as soon as they join:

  1. Fail to properly organize their source tree before import. These are full of faulty connection, sons attached as fathers, circular relationships, mothers married to sons, etc
  2. Fail to correct their source tree data. Missing dates, grossly wrong century dates, illegal characters in fields (parentheses, asterisks, etc.), dates in location fields, etc.
  3. Fail to have sources in their source tree
  4. Fail to reduce massive bios in their source tree, which are reckless copy and paste from somewhere, sometimes duplicated, sloppy research notes that are incomprehensible
  5. Fail to include maiden names of females in their source tree, rather than married name, or having odd text like "I don't know" instead of the WikiTree standard Unknown
  6. Fail to limit the massive size of their source tree. This is done while preparing for import, when the GEDCOM is created. Newbies just want to dump it all in, all at once, and will inevitably walk away from it all after. I have not imported in many years, but even back then there was a speed bump by Chris. But that is a tremendous drain on his and staff time, simply because new people want to import right away.
  7. Fail to wait to import. The first thing people want to do is to import. It is lazy and cheap. They should instead spend some time manually building immediate family profiles. Or exploring and finding existing branches. I would like to see a time period restriction, though, so that they don't go right down to the older parts of the tree, and start adding children sloppily and in error. Instead, they can add many profiles after 1900, or after 1850. There needs to be a series of timeout and cutoffs, until they either gain time or practice on areas of the tree that will only involve their more immediate family
  8. Fail to avoid name collecting. People think that a surname Johnson has to be all under their control if they are named Johnson. A name study is fine, for a person with experience. But a new person needs to learn to appreciate that there is serious work going on in the name studies, so they should learn their way around first.
  9. Fail to avoid mass adoptions. New people will adopt massive amounts of orphans, as a first task, because they can, and it looks like fun, and seems to be helpful. I have not adopted entire branches in many years, because I have learned the pitfalls of it.
  10. Fail to avoid celebrity profiles. I have seen numerous times that a newbie will create or adopt a famous person or family, as their first tasks, just because it is fun. And then they become unresponsive, or keep it locked in Red privacy. The extended family members of famous people will do this as well. I can understand that they want to manage it as family, but they also need to learn to be fair with notable profiles, so that the entire WikiTree community can also at least view most of it.
  11. Fail to distinguish a good primary source from a bad secondary source. I don't mind people using a secondary source tree, or Find-a-Grave, if they are filling in holes on their own family. I do this as well, it is mostly fine, if taken with a bit of caution and reason. But a mistake a new person will make is to want to replicate an entire chain of such trees, without cross-checking against other sources and trees. They should not do this on numerous lines that are not their own family. Over the years I have had to deal with massive branches of descendants of trees that are simply wrong, because the person started with the oldest profile they could find, and then just added every supposed descendant they could come up with. It is an absolute nightmare to find and adjust those errors, especially when they are locked down in private profiles.
  12. Fail to learn and study before getting badged. New people want to collect badges and power roles too soon, even if they have learned very little about WikiTree. Most of the required learning needs to be just spending time more widely on Wikitree, before assuming power.
  13. Too fast to join projects. Just because you have an ancestor, does not mean you need to a member of that ancestor's group project. It is senseless for most people to be a member of numerous projects. New people don't have time or skills to properly function in any one of them, let alone in all of them. If certain projects welcome new people who have no experience, because there are a lot of simple tasks to be done, they will make that clear. But I think most projects, especially ancestral projects, are serious business by experienced people. Even Leaders eventually find that projects can be more than they want to handle.
  14. Fail to really want to have patience to realize that WikiTree is not really what they want to do. I have invited numerous people, and seen many others, who have done most or all of the above. And then they promptly abandoned the site entirely, because it is just not what they want. So I am stuck with their trees, their profiles in my add list, I am locked out of private profiles I once managed and then turned over to them, profiles that they cannot merge because they don't see it and don't care. I have pending merges that have sat for years, because of privacy. They will get resolved in time. But they are annoying to look at, every time I open my pending list. For these reasons, I simply do not invite people anymore. I don't have any solution in mind for this group of issues. Perhaps there can be some sort of reversion option, so that I can re-adopt profiles that I had previously managed, if the person I invited has gone absent.
The decision has been made: Profiles of people born more than 150 years ago or who died more than 100 years ago should be Open.

Here is the announcement:

10 Answers

+5 votes

No, we don't need to change our privacy options, or a completely different proposal would be better.

Note that we should all agree that non-living people should not be protected unless there are real privacy concerns. As mentioned above, privacy controls are for privacy, not control. The ultimate point of our Honor Code, literally and figuratively, is: "We are united in a mission to increase the world's common store of knowledge. We always respect copyrights and privacy, but we keep information as free and open as possible."

If you vote this up, please explain why you think our current system is the best, or what alternative system you would propose.

answered by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
Nothing can be deleted.  It's all there in the history and is retrievable.  Assurances have been given.  If promises aren't kept, confidence in the whole system is undermined.

PS And now it says 0 votes, although I voted.  Somebody has downvoted.
Hi RJ,

Can you expand on how implementing the proposal would be breaking a promise?

By the way, don't obsess too much on the votes. These are just a way to help us estimate where our most active and informed members stand on a question. And although we don't invite down-votes, since that confuses things, sysops can see the actual up and down votes and can account for them.


This won't fix anything.  There are millions of Open profiles that people can work on already - why does anyone care about working on the recent ancestors of someone else.  We need collaboration the most on 200+ year old profiles.  Can you follow up this change with some changes to improve both quality of content and collaboration on those profiles?

Question: If someone died over 100 years ago but their parents were born less than 150 years ago, then could the parents be private/green while their child must be open?

By the way, even though it's included in the answer above, I do not agree "that non-living people should not be protected."

Hi Mikey,  I care about working on the recent ancestors of other people, particularly Smiths.  I work every day to add sources to Unsourced Profiles and additional family members to sketchy twigs.  There are plenty of ways to contribute to the one world WikiTree.  Thanks for your contributions and collaboration.
Chris, I vote against this proposal for the following reasons:

1. It is merely a cosmetic change that does not address any of the real problems that exist and that the 2 previous discussions uncovered. We should focus our energies on solving the big problems that are affecting the very foundation of WikiTree first, before we address minor issues like this one.

2. While you have closed the previous 2 discussions, you have not actually stated whether or not they are still being considered. We should know what is on the table and what is not.

3. You state that Private profiles are a huge impediment to collaboration. I feel they are not, as we have other ways to collaborate without needing to have editing permissions (WikiTree's own word); trusted list requests, private messaging, and public comments are other tools of collaboration that are being ignored and underused.

What IS a huge impediment to collaboration, are the Private profiles that do not have managers or have absentee managers. We need a system that addresses that issue directly and efficiently, not some minor tweak to privacy levels.

4. Regardless of our course of action, I believe we need information as to what mechanism will be used to implement any changes. Will profile managers be handling the task themselves? Or will a software solution be created to open the profiles; and if so, can it be directed solely at the problem profiles instead of all Private profiles? We should be told the HOW options available as well as the WHAT.

Quoting your proposal, "We can have strong emotions about people who are a few generations removed from us." That emotional connection to our ancestors is why we are here. WikiTree is unique among the wiki sites, so we should err on the side of caution regarding the use of the various privacy levels. We are not just entering general information; we are putting our hearts and souls into WikiTree. I believe we need to protect that at any reasonable cost.

>> That emotional connection to our ancestors is why we are here. 

This above all else!! Tread lightly gents and ladies and never forget the ground on which you tramp is hallowed ground.

I vote no because I do not think that changing the current 200 year rule to a 150/100 year rule solves any of the problems we are discussing, and I see from the discussions how it will create new ones.

Yes, changing the rule would increase the number of open profiles, but it does not really address the issues we have been discussing.  And we will have the additional problems of new privacy issues that have been described in this discussion. So I see no gain in this.

I do see some real ground to be gained on collaboration by addressing the inactive profile manager issue head on.  Most important, addressing that issue will increase the number of open profiles just as this proposal does, but with several important advantages:

1) No single suggestion is going to solve all the problems at once. A change that hits a higher proportion of the profiles that need cleaning up will get us the most accuracy improvement for the pain of the change. Nothing about this 150/100 proposal in any way targets the changes at the specific profiles that need attention. Its a blanket across the board change that hits actively managed and well developed profiles the same as profiles with no one active paying attention to them and bare profiles with little or nothing in them. Addressing the inactive profile manager issue, while not targeted with precision, is at least somewhat targeted at opening a higher percentage of profiles that will benefit from our active contributors.

2) Addressing inactive profile managers directly does not appear to be likely to create new privacy issues we haven't thought about as this 150/100 proposal does, particularly the 100 year dead part.  A significant chunk of the issues caused by locked down profiles being discussed will be improved by addressing the inactive profile manager issue head on, but I doubt that any will be made worse. I can't say the same for the 150/100 idea.

3) As those inactive profile managers are presumably no longer around, or at least not contributing much, it probably will not offend our active contributors.  

This is important for our collaborative environment.  Doing something that opens up a lot of profiles that will benefit from collaboration will ease the frustrations of many who want change and more open profiles. But doing it in a way that makes others with different opinions on privacy uneasy will also harm our collaborative environment.  There are deep differences of opinion on the real privacy side (what people can see which includes a certain amount of control to prevent the sensitive information from being added in the first place) which go down to the very basic principles that we are not going to reach collective agreement on. For example, we are not going to reach collective agreement on how many generations of relatives are close enough to care about keeping sensitive information from being added to a profile. We may need to agree to disagree on some points to preserve our collaborative environment. Moreover, making changes in a way that may introduce new privacy issues will only make the divisions between our opinions worse, not better.

However, if we can find a different way to focus our proposed change that will improve a major part of a real problem without introducing more division between our active contributors, it will go a lot further toward improving our collaborative environment than doing something in another area that may have a tangential effect but will increase the divisions between our active contributors. I see the 150/100 proposal as a tangential approach that will cause as much, and perhaps more harm, to our collaborative environment than any good it is likely to do because it will just happen to also increase the number of open profiles.

It may be more difficult from a software perspective to address the inactive profile managers than to make a change to the privacy policies and levels. But just because a change is easier does not mean that it addresses the problem or is a good change.  After all our recent discussion, I think this proposal is the wrong way to go about trying to address our problems.

By the way, although my opinion is no, I am not against open profiles. All my profiles of dead relatives are open, even those that died recently. But that doesn't mean I don't see and understand the privacy issues that have been raised in these discussions.


For all the reasons cited above and regurgitated over and over in these discussions.

It is the UPMs which are the issue. Can we please have a discussion on how to address that problem? 


Even 200 years ago is not really that long. We all need to remember that every profile was once a living breathing person who matters a great deal to those descended from them &/or managing their memory. Wikitree is slightly different to other wikis there and so it shouldn't be lumped into the wiki basket quite so flipantly - this wiki is emotional because it's about our own bloodlines, our's, our parent's, our grandparent's, and our gt grandparent's memories, lives, and loves, are memorialised here, with sources added.

I remember my gt grandmother, and her fabulous brother "Uncle Jim", very well. "Uncle Jim" was an ANZAC, along with three of his brothers. He was really tall, like a giant, he laughed allot, and he smoked a pipe. I can still see him sitting there and it makes me smile. He and his brothers were all at Gallipoli, two came home in one piece, one died in the trenches, one came home with half an ear and one leg. Just a couple of weeks back I got a message from the later brother's descendant, via wikitree, with more info and thanking me for the honour I am doing her gt grandfather. I knew gt Nana until I was 16. She was at every birthday, christmas, every milestone, of mine full of support an love. 

If the rules change Gt Nana and her brothers profiles will be set to open very soon.  - That does not make me happy or comfortable. I doubt her living descendants will be thrilled either.  

As well, my gt gt grandfather on another line was born in 1838 and died 93 years ago - the only reason his profile is not connected to a whole different family with brothers who were never his is because of the green privacy level. If he is made white I guarantee he will have a whole new family in time - and there will be nothing anyone can do about that until they notice, and then put in the time to fixing it all up again and putting all the other profiles where they belong too. Trust me, with this particular ancestor it is a given this will happen! It nearly already happened once here, and the only reason his line is right is because I communicated, collaborated, got the help of Swedish speakers here, they got me all the Swedish records, and so, Johannes is safe from being destroyed and falsified. 

Every profile is more than just a profile of someone who died x amount of years ago. There are more problems with mucked up trees pre 1700 than in any other area.  - check out ancestry, for a start! Pre 1700 and pre 1500 are protected. Allow our more recent ancestors the same death right please. They are real people and dead or alive no matter how many years they are important to us, personally.

Address the UPM issue ... it is after all the issue that needs addressing. Is wikitree going to do something about that or not? Is asking that we look at that first as politically incorrect as asking for a printer friendly version for profiles, or something? Because that simple request is getting old too. Too much to ask for the ability to print tidy copies of our own contributions for our own personal files?

*Worrying about wikitree and where it is heading whilst not giving one iota for the potential reprisals I may get via the pm system for saying that*

^that's called passion ftr^ .... for wikitree, what is best for wikitree whilst remaining respectful of all whom we document here and all whom may be out there descended from them, from the heart

+9 votes

Maybe. I agree with the general intent but I have some reservations.

If you vote this up, please explain why. Do you have specific suggestions for an alternative proposal?

answered by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

My ancestors would be affected by the death rule if that was the only rule change. I don't support the 150 rule or the 175 rule. We shouldn't force the opening of people that may have died in the 1940s. These are profiles of people that may have been known by a currently living person. The overlap with the living is where the privacy concern is.

I would still have to wait 3 years to work on one of my 4th great grandparents under the 175 rule and even longer for some 4gg siblings. My 4gg wouldn't be opened by the death rule either, but I can deal with that, since some elderly living person may have known them.

Your extremely unlikely hypothetical situation could still happen with the 175 year rule so I don't see how it is better. It's not like the 100 rule forces people to post sensitive information about a dead person that might make a living person upsetThere is nothing stopping the stranger from creating open profiles of dead people, so poor Tom will still be upset no matter what. 

Regarding your idea for an "automatic entry on to the Trusted List" ... Allowing ordinary users bypass the privacy settings and see private information is not a good idea if you actually value privacy. Not much can be done to stop people from posting sensitive information publicly to profiles they create, but Wikitree should absolutely prevent other people (even if they claim to be related) from seeing private information (that may involve living people) on profiles they didn't create

Lol, Jamie, I can't tell if you want more Openness, or more privacy now.

The 175 rule is identical to what is current status. It simply opens up only one more 25-year generation, for NEW profiles, not for legacy profiles. So any edit or creation of a profile with birth 1817-1842 would be Open.

There will be about five potential profiles forced Open who died as late as 1952. These are already very famous centenarians, who are extremely well documented all over the Internet and in the news.

There will be about a thousand potential profiles of people who died between 1942-1952. The vast majority of these will not be entered into WikiTree for years to come, because they are not very rare, and so are not very notable for their longevity. Maybe a couple dozen of them will be created on WikiTree, and most of those probably already exist, because of family members who think it is a big deal to have a relative over 100 in age. So only a new edit will force any of those legacy profiles open.

As for the rest of the very elderly, WikiTree started a decade ago, so we have already progressed forward in time one-half generation. So the 200 year rule needs to shift forward as well. If we make it 175 right now, then we split the difference, as opposed to waiting until the end of the generation cycle, in say 10 years, and then implement the 175 cutoff at that time. It makes little difference when we actually do it. It would simply be easier and more problem-solving for collaboration if we do it now.

As far as the cousinship, my proposal was only to apply it to deceased profiles. Not to living profiles. If a deceased profile died in the 1930s, and is locked down in Red privacy, by some far distant name collector who got to it first, and is being absent or uncooperative about adding me to the Trusted List, then if the deceased is my second cousin, I should simply be allowed to have an easy entry point into that profile.

Here is a good way to test - if I, as a second cousin, have a closer direct relationship to the profile than does anybody who is on the current Trusted List, then I should be able to get in without going through a huge process deal. The far distant name collector manager will still be manager. But I will get more automatic access to my own close deceased relatives.

On the other hand, if the profile was created by a first cousin, or a first cousin or a child of the deceased was added to the Trusted List, then my request would have to still follow the existing procedure. I would not be automatically allowed in by the system bot. I think we can easily create such a system, and so then solve it for everybody in this way.

We can start something like that very gradually, to test it out for reactions and such. For example, instead of the death rule, we can apply it right now to anybody who died before 1900.

For instance, I have a Green profile which I have not edited in four years. Born abt 1840. I could have it as a Red profile. I just checked, and I have no blood relationship to this profile. If a relative comes along, a fourth cousin, they must go through the request process for me to grant them access.

But with this new proposal of mine, we can treat birth as = death date, so it is < 1900. And then rather than have to wait for me to approve accesss, etc., they can simply run a new tool, "test for closer relationship." That will run the relationship finder on the manager, and on all the current members of the Trusted List. Since I am sole manager, it shows I have no connection. And it shows that the new relative has the 4th cousinship. So they get an automated pop up response option at that point, "Add yourself to the Trusted List." And done.

On the other hand, if a great-grandson is already on the Trusted List, then nothing happens. Maybe this new person get an automated response, "Sorry, you are not the closest relative on the Trusted List."

The elegance of this solution is that we already have the tool existing, the relationship finder. So the only new thing to build technically is the autobot to add themself to the Trusted List, if they pass the test.

Will people build fake profiles and fake relationships to skirt the system? Probably, if they do such things now. But they get caught, and then removed, just as happens with vandals now. A wiki always has to rely on a certain degree of integrity from its members. And of course there can be monitoring, and also speed bumps. For example, only allow five such auto-adds per day. Or red flag to a mentor watch list any such adds in excess of ten in a week.

We can solve these things. It does not have to be all or none. So if you don't like the 175, then let's simply split the difference again, to start with. Make it 190 at birth, as of today, and call it done. Then let's look at it again in a month from now, or a year from now, and see if there is consensus to make it 180, or 175 at that time.
I want it open as possible, but I also understand that people don't want to have to open the relatives that they knew personally.

So you have no problem opening up 1000 real people, but it's a huge deal if one imaginary person's 1st cousin/brother/son gets offended that someone posted some sensitive information about their dead relative's parents. Ok then.

I'm confused about needing to shift the 200 year rule. It's already shifting. Everyone born in 1816 is able to be opened now, and the year before that all the 1815, etc.

My grandmother who died 3 years ago has two half brothers that she never met, and never wanted to meet. They are closer in relationship to her than I am, so should they get access to her private profile?

I still think death date is the way to go. It will open up the maximum number of profiles without risking the privacy of the living.
I have question to make sure I understand how the system works today...

There is a radio button that you can check that says:  Blank because living

under the death date.    

So if this is checked doesn't it create the "Private Spouse, child, etc note?

If the person is listed as living does that not automatically under our proposal close anyone who is connected to them with a first degree relationship and grandparents and grandchildren?

I have gotten lost with all of the what ifs so want to make sure I understand how the system works today and if it will change these controls if the date is relaxed to 175 years.
Each person's privacy is independent from any other profile. Marking a person as "Blank because living" won't allow their privacy to be changed to Public or Open. But anyone connected to them that is deceased can be Open. It's up to the profile manager.
Yes, Jamie, you are correct, the 200 rule is shifting forward, so I had confused myself with all the hypothetical.

But then you wrote, "So you have no problem opening up 1000 real people, but it's a huge deal if one imaginary person's 1st cousin/brother/son gets offended that someone posted some sensitive information about their dead relative's parents. Ok then."

We both want to maximize Openness, while maintaining proper Privacy as needed, for the best outcome for the most people. But if you are not willing to discuss the details of it productively, without needless sarcasm and pointless straw man mischaracterizations, then I am done here.
You loled at my previous response, and mischaracterized what I said in some of your earlier posts, so can you blame for being a little snarky?

You gave one example of why you feel the 100 year death rule is "reckless". The example you gave could happen with the current policy, the 150 year policy, the 175 year policy, the 190 policy, and the close cousinship policy. The problem is that Tom didn't create the profiles first, not that Alice's parents died 100 years ago.

Centenarians are not the only age group that would be forced open with the 175 year policy. Let's take Bob as an example -- born the same year as Tom, 1920. It's possible his great-grandfather was born in 1840 and died in 1928 (aged 88), when Bob was 8. Maybe the great grandfather's obituary says that his great grandson Bob is adopted. Maybe Bob doesn't want every stranger on the internet to know he is adopted, but he doesn't mind the people on the trusted list knowing, and he wants to include the obituary for sourcing purposes. Under the death rule he can keep the information private for another 11 years (he will likely be dead by then, and won't care). Under the 175 rule the profile would be forced open.

Or maybe Bob just has fond memories of his grandfather and doesn't feel comfortable having a stranger edit the profile. While that really isn't a privacy reason for keeping the profile locked, I think it is a compromise that has to be made to get people to accept the policy.
I would be comfortable with >175 birth or >125 death MUST be Open. That would completely solve my problem for Tom born 1920, and Tom's cousin / *sister* Alice born 1910, because Alice's biological mother Jane born 1895 and died 1910 in Alice's incestuous childbirth can be privately protected for another 18 years, since the forced Open death cutoff year would be 1892. In 18 years from now, the forced cutoff will have graduated up to Jane's death year of 1910, at which time her profile must become Open.

In those 18 years, Tom will have passed on. And the incest news revelation will not become a shock to him, which his immediate descendants will no longer have to carefully manage, to protect his mental stability.

True, that rule will leave information exposed for some thousand or so very elderly, who lived into the late 1940s. But to avoid that exposure of some sensitive information in a bio on their profile, it means that the Privacy for them would otherwise not be able to be Green or even Yellow, or Dark Orange, but must be Light Orange or Red, for people born as late as 1842.

I have a problem with that much invisibility being allowed at that early date, on ALL profiles in the date range. We really need to Open up the vast majority of early 1800s profiles, at least to be visible, for matching purposes, etc.

For one thing, the 1940 census has been open for a long time, and the 1950 census will be open in just three years from now. So household information is readily available already for these centenarians in the 1940s.

But alternatively, a better rule would be <175 birth or <100 death MAY be private. That solves everything for my Jane, Alice and Tom, all of whom were born after 1842. And it solves everything for the few centenarians like your Bob, because he died well after 1917.

And if we treat birth date = death date in the absence of any death entry, then it will force Open a vast number of profiles born 1817-1842, which need to be Open. Those are precisely the huge profiles that many people need to have access to.

Legacy profiles in that range will still be locked as Public, but after an initial mad rush to have staff Open a bunch of them, from the same managers probably, they will be able to handle the ongoing flow, just as successfully as the did when the rule transitioned from 300 to 200.

And to help matters, any edit on any of those profiles will also force Open the profile automatically.

So I believe that we are now right back to the precise solution proposal that I started with, by flipping Chris' proposed rule IF / THEN statement around, but with a better compromise on the birth year to a single generation add of 175 instead of a two-generation add of 150.
We're going to close this soon.

RJ, you have had an important insight that many have missed: we need to worry about what may be in the bios of existing Private profiles. You don't have to worry about this, though. The team has to worry about it. We have to implement the rule changes carefully.

Steven, flipping the rule would make it more complicated. It would apply to six privacy levels instead of one. That would make it harder to explain and considerably harder to enforce. In the end I think we'd open so few profiles that it wouldn't be worth the trouble.

Jamie, you've been making great points. The reason we're not proposing simply a 100-years-after-death rule is that a lot of profiles don't have death dates. If there were no death date, I think we'd have to be safe and assume that people could live to 120. That means we'd only be forcing profiles to be Open if the person were born before 1798.

Onward and upward,

Would it be possible / easy for someone to develop an app that would allow active managers to scan their watchlists for which profiles would be affected by such a change? Having that concrete info handy would make it easier for managers to see how this proposal would alter the status quo...
+53 votes

Yes, I agree with the proposed 150/100 rule.

answered by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
RJ, the +1 thread was about all privacy levels, not just green.

I think that the died 100 years ago condition is the only change needed. It is highly unlikely that anyone who died 100 years ago came into contact with any currently living person, so I can't see how there could be any privacy concerns. But some currently living people may have had contact with someone born 150 years ago.
My great-grandmother died in 1916.  Obviously I never met her.  But if I'd written a profile for her, which fortunately I haven't, there's no telling what I might have put in it.  I might have put in a complete tree of all her descendants, thinking it was a good enough place because it was all Private.
For RJ

No disrespect intended. If your great grandma had a scandal, why would you put anything about it on a public website ? And if you did great grandma and locked her up green, wouldn't people still be able to read it? Maybe I'm too logical minded, but your great grandma has confused me.
Hi Eddie,

A WikiTree member might easily want great-grandma or grandpa's life to be recognized on a public tree and so they post her/his "basic status indicators" plus perhaps a few lines about her/his life BUT their family does not want everything they did to be made public.  The Green profile level would allow that member to maintain the integrity of their family tree while expecting to maintain the privacy of whatever they felt should not be revealed.

If the profile is now suddenly Opened because that person was born in 1868 (over 150 years ago but they lived to be 98 - so they died in 1966 - only 50 years ago) anyone could "update" this now-Open profile, without collaboration with its creator, and because of the "changes" tab that unwanted information would be there forever and the active profile-manager could not remove it even if they tried.

I totally agree that a 100 years after DEATH rule only is far preferable as very few, if any, living members would have known a relative who died 100+ years ago.
Eddie - I'd have locked her Red, not Green.  And it's not about her, it's about whatever might have been on her profile, which might not have been about her.

What if I wrote "she was a saintly and devout person, and would have been horrified to think her great-grandson would turn out to be an axe-murdering child-molester?"
RJ - How did you get a hold of my private diaries ?
You too?

But Chet - if I want to wash your great-grandpa's dirty laundry, I don't have to do it on his profile.  I can do it on his father's profile and people can find it with one click.

You have to trust people not to say what shouldn't be said.  You can't control it just by locking up space when there's unlimited alternative space.

The issue here is about what might have been said already, in the belief that it would never be broadcast.
Point taken.

I however take a different point of view and assume most people wouldn't deliberately post things that might be hurtful just to "get around" the current rules.  But they might not and often do not appreciate what another member might consider sensitive and just add it "for the record" as it were.  But I do believe we are on the same page - when either Red, Yellow or even Green profiles were created, the expectation was that the rules would remain the same for the foreseeable future.  I do not want to change them for profiles of people who could have known currently-living people and that's why I favor a 100 years after death alternative, much like many personal archives are not opened until 75 to 100 years after a person's death.

Thanks. See, my folks are all dead . Mom, dad, grands, uncles. I only got 1 aunt living and this green lock stuff gets confusing. On my dad's side, the Ezell Armours, there was a murder and 2 suicides. my cousin Ezell was murdered when we were 16. His dad & Gramps suicide. They trafficked in "crack."

so I wasn't going to include them. 

Please change this. I seem to have run into an ever-increasing plague of green profiles - mostly for people who died in the 1800s. They are predominantly GEDCOM imports done 3-4 years ago by profile managers that are barely active, if at all. The current situation penalizes those who are very active on Wikitree by making us labor to communicate with uninvolved people without legitimate privacy concerns. Each effort on each profile to message, post on their profile, message again, post the honor code, fill out the unresponsive profile manager form, etc. is a massive waste of time. Please, please change this.
+8 votes
Yes. I think that generally waits a fairly short time after someone is no longer with us before adding their information. Waiting 150 years after birth or 100 years after death, seems like a more than reasonable length of time.
answered by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
Public Records on familysearch list info on living people.
+15 votes
Just my 2 cents, the 150/100 rule sounds fine.  I recently ran into a tree where literally every person born in the last 200 years was locked.    Plus there is a person with a bunch of entries in the unconnected list and also they have all of the profiles locked.  So if I wanted to help connect or source, I would have to ask permission.

Yes, I get it, if it's a close relative or someone who died recently.  I have a couple deceased close relatives myself that are locked. But in my case, that is less than 5.  But someone who died in the 1860's.  And I have to ask to be put on the trusted list, just too add a source or connect a parent, frankly it's really annoying.    Also it goes against the sprit of wikitree.

The rest of my profiles are open.  If someone wants to add something, they can.  I'll notice it right away and if I disagree with something, they add I'll handle it in a diplomatic manner and listen to their argument.  Because there is a chance that they are right and I am wrong.

But, I'm starting to ramble, so.....I'm off.
answered by Craig Albrechtson G2G6 Mach 6 (63.3k points)
+9 votes

I like this proposal/question from Eddie King, "Is there a way to write a program that will "contact" managers who haven't worked here for maybe 2 years and allow maybe 90 days to respond?"

Something along that line should be technically possible, though I think 2 years is too long. Maybe something like an automatic email on the anniversary of a member's joining WikiTree asking if they are still active, requiring a response within 30-45 days. If there is no response then the inactive members protocol is put into effect. Add some option so that members can indicate they are on a temporary sabbatical but intend to resume activity in the future.

After reading the responses to these privacy rule modification discussions I'm left with the opinion that inactive members are a bigger problem than profiles with privacy settings set too strict (though these are very inter-related). Adjusting the privacy options, no matter the method, will add complexity to the site. Dealing with inactive members seems like maybe less complex technically. 

answered by John Beardsley G2G6 Mach 3 (30.6k points)
@Eddie and John

Let's start a different discussion around this issue of "non-responsive" Managers.  I am there with you that something needs to be done.
Hi Miss Robin. When I mentioned a contact program I meant it to mean opening the greenies they manage. Sorry I wasn't clear for that. Too much coffee today? ;-)
+4 votes
I personally like the current rules, I think trimming another 50 years bumps into privacy issues with connections to living people such as banks and such mothers' maiden names.

A lot of the beauty of Wikitree is that it has so many customized privacy options. Plus we have collaboration, trusted lists, etc.

What we have here is a special marrying of living people and the past. I don't think we should jeopardize that or make Wikitree like every other generic genealogy site.

We already have problems with family members not being helpful because of privacy concerns, lets not encourage it by giving them a real reason.
answered by Dina Grozev G2G6 Mach 2 (26.5k points)
edited by Dina Grozev
If it was just the died 100 years ago part, would there be a privacy problem? It would be very unlikely that a person who died 100 years ago would have had any interaction with a currently living person.

Well said Dina!

A lot of the beauty of Wikitree is that it has so many customized privacy options. Plus we have collaboration, trusted lists, etc.

What we have here is a special marrying of living people and the past. I don't think we should jeopardize that or make Wikitree like every other generic genealogy site.

We already have problems with family members not being helpful because of privacy concerns, lets not encourage it by giving them a real reason.


Yes Jaime, that should be fine. The people born 150 years ago was the category I was concerned with as they might still have living children and that would bump into our older generation of seniors for whom it is most critical to get involved w/genealogy before they are gone.
+4 votes
Regarding other points - let's not underestimate the size of WikiTree.

For instance, in round numbers, there are about 2 million Green profiles (mostly because they were automatically created Green) and about half of those are unsourced.

A few dozen dedicated Sourcerers can hardly make a dent.

The number of inactive PMs runs into many tens of thousands.  You'd need an automated call center.  Press 1 for Who's WikiTree, Press 2 for ...
answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (418k points)
+3 votes
We talk about profiles as if they were real.  But they're only virtual.  The computer assembles them on demand, and it can do that any way it likes.

It's not necessary to open up Private material just because it's in the way.  It can be sidelined.

For instance, maybe a Private bio could be moved to a shadow "page" and replaced with a blank one.

Or there could be a Redirect-without-Merge that redirects to a new ID without merging the wiped content or giving access to the old change history.
answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (418k points)
That's an interesting idea.

So if the profile has a private biography and falls in the new range, put the biography in a space page, make the profile manager the manager of the space page, and make the space page private. Then place a link to the space page on the newly opened profile. That way none of the information that may be private would be exposed. When the profile reaches the old 200 year cutoff, then people could request that the space page be opened or the information merged into the profile or something like that.
Private pages get deleted when the manager becomes unresponsive, which happens to us all, so they won't often be around long enough to be opened.

But the trick would be not to leave the content in the change log.  So something slightly fancier would be needed.  Feasible though.
I don't like the idea of editing the change log.

What about this: the profiles with public biographies that fall into the new range get opened, and nothing happens to the ones with private biographies. If someone wants access to the private profile and they don't get a response or get someone who refuses to collaborate, then they can do what is already allowed in the UPM policy and create a duplicate (which would be Open by default). When the original profile manager is finally reported as unresponsive, their private profiles will be deleted, so no more duplicates.

And no profiles in the new date range should be able to switch privacy once Opened.

I don't ~think~ any private information could be exposed this way. Vital info of dead people with no children doesn't need to be protected, and no private bios would be exposed.
+6 votes
I wholeheartedly endorse changing these rules to more closely mirror what is typical of public records. If public records used Wikitree's privacy rules, we simply could not do genealogy. I can easily pull death certificates for people that died 50 or 75 years ago.

I just ran across an entire large family group, related to me, all of who died >100 years ago (and the parents >175 years ago,) and the entire family is green-protected. There is no privacy concern, and it is full of errors and GEDCOM import detritus. Children were born before the mother, etc.

I see things like this all of the time - and the intent seems clear - people don't want the profiles changed, which seems to be anti-collaborative on its face.

I have no desire to change actual privacy concerns - I personally never intentionally add living people unless I know them personally and have their permission. But I think we really need to distinguish between legitimate privacy concerns and anti-collaborative measures. While I understand that people may change things erroneously, that is part of collaboration. It will get changed back, eventually.

I don't pretend to really understand how the "Project Protected" profiles work, but if there are profiles of people that are constantly getting changed, because they are famous, or they had thousands of genealogist descendants, then an edit approval process seems in order.

Thanks for considering making this change.

answered by Gary Kueber G2G5 (5.2k points)

Related questions

+5 votes
2 answers
+62 votes
16 answers
+7 votes
1 answer
+5 votes
1 answer
+16 votes
3 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright