GDPR Claims Another Victim: WorldFamilies.net [closed]

+27 votes
991 views

Brought to my attention just three hours ago by WikiTreer and well-known genetic genealogist, Debbie Kennett, the WorldFamilies Project--probably more recognizable as WorldFamilies.net--will be closing as of May 23. You can view the news as posted on Haplogroup.org, and visit the WorldFamilies.net site during its remaining days.

Hundreds of DNA projects at FTDNA are operated through WorldFamiles. Just searching G2G for "WorldFamiles" will yield scores of question threads, and "WorldFamilies.net" at Google will get 233,000 hits. While most of the DNA data will not be deleted--that resides with FTDNA--there will be, overnight, another hole ripped in the fabric of our collective genetic genealogies by the deletion on May 23 of all project pages at WorldFamilies.net.

A portion of the text of the public announcement sent last night by Terry and Marilyn Barton to their project administrators follows:


We are both excited and saddened to announce our retirement and the closing of the WorldFamilies Project Administration services after 14 years, effective May 23, 2018. We have developed close relationships with many of you, though we’ve never met, and we’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know a number of you at the various DNA conferences and meetings. It has been very special to work with many fine administrators and very wonderful individuals, learning from you, as we have worked to share our knowledge, and to provide administrative support.

We hope that you will forgive the short notice, but we have been in contact with FTDNA since late February, seeking a way to address our concerns of being sole administrator for more than 750 projects, while supporting a like number of projects with volunteer administrator(s), under the coming rigorous requirements of the European Union’s GDPR (new privacy law going to effect May 25, 2018). We have always protected the privacy of our project members, and will continue to do so on personal ancestral surname projects that we will continue to administer. However, the ambiguity and uncertainty of the bureaucratic requirements under this new law are just more than we care to deal with....

We will delete the project sections of the WorldFamilies site on May 23, 2018, so please copy any information that you wish to save. You may wish to make a copy of your Home, Results, Patriarch, Discussion or other project pages.... For the other pages, you may want to copy/paste your info into a Word document. (Note: we won’t be able to “rescue” you if you miss the deadline, so please don’t wait too long.)

Our agreement with FTDNA was to provide Interim Project Administration for Surname Projects that did not have a volunteer admin. We chose to extend our service to “newbies” and then to experienced administrators without additional compensation as we realized that we could be of service. However, we ask that you respect our retirement and now obtain your support from FTDNA.

closed with the note: Old news, closing the question
in The Tree House by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (310k points)
closed by Robin Lee
Thanks for sharing the news, Edison.
I've been nothing but a bearer of bad news the last few days, Chris.  :-/  But it does, I think, illustrate how much research and contemplation must have gone into planning and implementation for WikiTree--somewhat painful as it is--to shore up the bunkers to withstand this.
What is this? Why I this happening now and I've had no contact from anyone other than them letting people hacking my dna and using my Google without my permission and steeling my family information witch has not been returned same as the Facebook from Scotland who locked me out my gedmatch account witch has now resulting in information being with held from me and iam still unable to retain my information or dna or the fact my identity as a person was stolen

Kayleigh, this was current news 3 years ago.  This has nothing to do with whatever happened to you in the last few days or weeks.

3 Answers

+2 votes
 
Best answer
by Herbert Tardy G2G6 Pilot (634k points)
selected by Edison Williams
Thanks for the star Edison!

wink Well, you're welcome, Herb. Was just reviewing my older "questions" to locate the date when WorldFamilies.net actually folded, and saw nobody had ever selected your answer. For all our faithful readers (and especially the G2G moderators!), I didn't mean to move the topic up to the recent list. Nothing to see here...

+12 votes
How disappointing.  I have consulted many projects over the years for my research.  Where to start!  Thanks to all those out there who contributed for so many years.
by Veronica Williams G2G6 Pilot (146k points)

Yep. WorldFamilies.net didn't offer the cleanest looking website interface, and didn't really overhaul itself to keep up with the CMS era, but there are vast amounts of information there that, if all the hundreds of project administrators don't act quickly to save and then find another venue to present it, will vanish. No doubt Archive.org will have cached portions of it, but that's a hit or miss proposition.

I just took a quick look and surname DNA projects using WorldFamilies.net as webhost for their pages range from the surnames "Aaron" to "Zuniga." There are a number of projects home-based there that have over 1,000 members.

+11 votes

For surname projects that relied on WorldFamilies.net (or the Bartons themselves) to organize STR kits into groups based on kit results, I recommend that they use my free web app for that purpose:

http://www.ydnagroupingapp.com/

by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (219k points)

Well, slap me silly, Chase. I never connected you to the grouping app...I suppose because I never had occasion to email you from the site.

Folks, if you have a yDNA project, large or small, Chase's compact online app is easy to use, accurate, and a great asset. Even if you choose to tweak the groupings after-the-fact--you may have Y-SNP novel markers that come into play, or you may simply want to arrange the non-matches differently--starting with his "Y-DNA Family Grouping App" can make your life as a project admin, whether new or experienced, much easier.

Will that work for the TV commercial testimonial?

Thanks, Chase.  :-)

Thanks, Edison. Where do I send your check for your share of the profits? Oops free app. Nevermind. But thanks anyway!

Thank you so much Chase! I'll port my data over there. Thank you for stepping up in the day of all this overreach.

Frankly, it's deeply disappointing and irresponsible of the Bartons to immolate WorldFamilies like this. While everyone has a right to retire and there's no inherent entitlement to any free service, I have always been of the opinion that those who build online communities or host data have an ethical responsibility to their communities and users to provide an orderly transition or shutdown.

Deleting everything with less than two weeks notice is irresponsible and disrespectful if not immoral.

I won't scorify the Bartons over this. I'm certain the notion of personal retirement came after, not before. And even "retirement" needs to be in quotation marks: I volunteered to take over the McWilliams project, but the Bartons replied to me saying that Marilyn would remain admin for that one and a few others.

I have no firsthand knowledge here, mind you, but I spent about 15 hours over the past few days adopting a couple of projects as well as capturing and archiving information from about two-score other projects; that including digging around in the source HTML that WorldFamilies rendered for display. My uninformed, supposition-only notion is that the Bartons did not want to close down WorldFamilies.net, and had probably begun researching what needed to be done to appease GDPR. But they weren't the repository-of-record for the yDNA data.

WorldFamilies.net used an application and an API to import data from FTDNA into their displays, and to then sort and "colorize" the Y-STR results according to their own formulas. I have a feeling that, with only short notice to go before GDPR D-Day, that both FTDNA and the Bartons came to realize that the API couldn't stay, that it would put FTDNA, in particular, in legal jeopardy if the DNA kit numbers and marker values--certainly a possibility to be considered "personal identifying information" under GDPR--were being copied from their repository and mirrored on another website external to their company. If I had to guess, this decision came just a few weeks ago, probably shortly before we had the first news on May 10 that Ysearch and Mitosearch would be closing.

Again, I'm speaking with absolutely no firsthand knowledge, so don't trust me. But my bet is that the Bartons were faced with knowing that, as of May 25, their API would no longer function and that there was no ready solution to keep it working...certainly not in a matter of two or three weeks worth of development, negotiation, and legal evaluation, not to mention the resultant expenses incurred. If WorldFamilies.net as a resource were going dark on its own anyway, maybe better to announce it ASAP and see if the to-be-orphaned projects could be adopted by current, experienced project admins. There is a private Facebook group for active FTDNA admins, and within a day of the Bartons' announcement a Google spreadsheet was posted in cooperation with FTDNA and the Bartons that listed all to-be-orphaned projects, and discussion begun on the FB group.

The yDNA data live at FTDNA. Nothing is lost there other than the grouping and rearranging of project results. Since the WorldFamilies.net API and app did that, the vast majority of the data now visible via the FTDNA myGroups interface is minimally grouped, or not grouped at all. I have a feeling Chase's free Webapp is going to be getting more traffic this week and next than it's ever seen before.  :-)  And the projects themselves actually live at FTDNA, not at WorldFamilies: there had to be a project created there before any information was viewable at WorldFamilies. What is lost in some cases is the user-provided "patriarch" information, the collections--sometimes small or nonexistent, sometimes fairly extensive--of reported family patrilineal lineages associated with Kit and/or project Group numbers. That's why a number of us spent some time trying to capture what we could for whomever volunteered to be admin for a project.

But I don't believe the Bartons were any happier about the outcome than we are. I think everybody went into triage mode this month, and the result simply is what it is. Any stones I cast will still be in the direction of the European Union and GDPR. I'm all for the right to privacy, but the GDPR is overreaching. I have a feeling that come the first instance of the EU attempting to prosecute one or more large U.S. corporations over the regulation, we will see suits and countersuits filed and it will reach the newsworthy status of impacting international relations. My prediction is that within 18 months we will see the language of the GDPR altered and a new, more explicit and less punitively restrictive version published.

Edit: I usally am a rilly gud speler, but one important word was incorrect. It kept bugging me....

That's not accurate. Apparently there was unique content as well as DNA data compiled from other shuttered sources (e.g. former AncestryDNA y-DNA) that may be either irreplaceable or difficult to nearly impossible to reindex if not mirrored before deletion. That's why they urged people to copy their project (including results!) pages off, although they didn't give nearly enough time to do so. The fact that many of these projects were dormant or dying sort of makes it worse because it makes it unlikely that former project participants or managers got the memo in the tiny window of time to export the data.

Imputed unhappiness about it doesn't change the result of what they did. At a minimum they could have taken it offline and tried to sort out later if or how to handle it without deleting as they apparently did. They're not even in Europe!

I'm sure Caesar shed many tears as he set fire to the Library of Alexandria. I have no patience for the "just following orders" and "no other choice" echo chamber.
BTW, I just updated the app for easier data input in light of FTDNA's GDPR changes. Since a file download no longer gives you all the data (private kits are omitted), the best/easiest way to get full data is to save the results page as an html file. I have updated the app so that it accepts an html file as input, without having to convert it to a csv file.

Nathan, just for transparency, your information is also not firsthand, correct? I ask because I didn't see you involved in the discussions and active adoptions/data captures going on for the WorldFamilies projects. Since you're passionate about the subject, you may also want to investigate volunteering for Blaine Bettinger's Committee for the Preservation of DNA Records, an independent, not-for-profit initiative launched earlier this month.

I believe you're correct that a very small percentage of the yDNA data housed at WorldFamilies.net did not originate at FTDNA. However, as I looked over the almost 40 projects that I saved (I prioritized projects with over 50 members), I can't recall seeing anything that did not appear to be from FTDNA...and let's not forget that many, if not most, testers at Ancestry for yDNA transferred their data to FTDNA when Ancestry announced they were getting out of that business years ago. After all, it was the FTDNA labs that Ancestry used for the testing. The even older testing from Sorenson is generally readily apparent because the set of STRs tested differed, and some used different naming conventions...which, of course, renders them of less value today because most of the markers can't be compared one-to-one.

All data was not permanently and irrevocably deleted. The yDNA data was database-driven; they weren't static, manually updated pages. The Bartons didn't pull a Fahrenheit 451 and pile disk drives in their driveway at 20:56 Eastern last night for the flamethrower treatment. I know the exact time because I was in the process of copying another project.

I've asked if FTDNA, as the projects' home of record, is considering having a database administrator extract info for projects that we weren't able to get to the past two weeks. Everyone is still phenomenally swamped, so I don't expect any response to that until next week. Whether any non-FTDNA data could be displayed anywhere is a different matter; it certainly can't be displayed at FTDNA's myGroups.

Oh, and by the way. Caesar didn't purposely set fire to the Library of Alexandria. The actual story, myth or not, is that he ordered his own ships set afire when he was besieged in 48 BC, and that the fire spread to the coast and the library. The library seems to have still been in existence, though, over 300 years later when Aurelian took Alexandria. I do appreciate the lyricism, but if we're pressing for accuracy...

"I have updated the app so that it accepts an html file as input, without having to convert it to a csv file."

Brilliant! Thanks, Chase. And very quick work! Now I owe you lunch and the testimonial. I notified the members of my adopted projects that I wouldn't begin reorganizing the displayed yDNA data until Saturday. Unintentionally good timing on my part.  ;-)

Edison,

My info was paraphrased from several discussion on several sources and a since-deleted notice on WorldFamilies. So it's not really first-hand.

I literally actually originally typed "(yes, for all you pedants, I am intentionally invoking a mythological event)", but I deleted it because I told myself "no one is that pedantic, stay on point." But who was I kidding? This is a genealogy site, we are all pedants here. My point stands, ok?

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