Including info about living people when writing a biography on a profile

+7 votes
I would like to know the policy, I'm trying to write some biographies on my deceased profiles. I know living people are listed as private on their profiles, so how do I include their names in my biographies that I write of their deceased family. Do I just say children, wife, son, daughter ect. instead of their names? I don't want to get in trouble.
in Policy and Style by Judy Deranian G2G6 (8.5k points)
edited by Jillaine Smith
This is a great question especially given the new privacy policies adopted at wikitree.  

I have many profiles of people where I include in their profile a list of the names enumerated in, say, the 1940 US Census.  This is a public record.  But it may very well include names of people who are still living.

Ditto re transcribing the text of an obituary-- another "public" record:  So and so is survived by.... and those then listed are likely living individuals.

Chris W, how would such descriptions be impacted by the new privacy rules?
Hi Jillaine and Judy,

There is no easy answer on this. Strictly speaking, according to the updated Privacy Policy, "You must not share information regarding a living person without that person’s explicit permission."

Often we don't know whether a person is living. That is a tough issue, and one of the many ambiguities about genealogy sites complying with the GDPR.

If you live in the European Economic Area, especially, I recommend being very conservative.

Chris, thanks for the quick response.

yikes! so if we're really following the rule very explicitly, and I'm transcribing an obituary from today's paper and it says that so-and-so is survived by..., then I really should NOT include the names of the persons who are clearly still alive.

(What I *could* do, though, is link to the published obituary...right?)
(Judy, I edited the title of your original question in order to draw better attention to this. It's important that others read this.)
Thank you.
Ah. I put in the census information. I search to find them on familysearch, findagrave, and with google. When found to be deceased, I enter their profile. Otherwise not. Very few born before 1930 seem to be still alive. I don't know that all government regulated documents are considered public since there's sometimes a fuss over freedom of information. And the line between private information and public information is in tatters because for a fee you can obtain all available records on someone, and for free you can find all online information on them with google, and in any case there seems to be a brisk market in stolen computerized private information. Which raises the question of just how private IS private anymore. I figure if they are found in a google search and were born after 1930 that I should exercise discretion and not profile them without benefit of a death record. Which leaves you with the same dilemma that drove you ask the question.
Obviously we need to take care when mentioning living people in a biography so as to maintain their privacy and ensure that we are abiding by Data Protection laws.

That seems to be the easy part. When cleaning up old gedcoms and merges I often come across lists of family members that show in the biography. It is sometimes obvious that these people are living. Their names and birth dates are still visible on the parents profile. Some of these profiles are orphans with no PM to contact. What should we do then? Should we delete the information? If we do its still available for others to see if they access the changes.
IF I understood that comment the profile of the probably still living person is there in bold print so to speak, and the PM is MIA, so that profile is an orphan i.e. it has no PM.

What role does the Padlock play in all this? To get past it you have to be Trusted by the PM, but they have not PM.

And WikiTree does not have a catch-all Orphanage into which is swept all the files that do not have a PM at year's end (each year) with someone set to be the Chief PM overseer manager on this black-padlock catch-all?

Nuclear option -- delete the info which means delete the problem raised by having the info there.

I suppose someone a group of someone even can run one last check on the names in search of a death record and barring any found by year's end (each year) delete the info ... surely someone with gleeful smile and itchy fingers and a lot of dedication can volunteer to execute the info dump? Because it IS painful to delete ... yes.

Are we talking 100s of files with no PM at the end of the year or are we talking 1000s?

Old Axiom is that if the conditions of the situation do not suit, then change the conditions to such as will be more in your favor.

Gah. This whole thing has given me a headache. To delete or not to delete, that is the question. Delete the info, ergo, no more questions about privacy nor ought else, ergo, no more problem.
Additionally Joan Whitaker is posing an important question. Very.

To which I add -- when is the information available actually private when at,,, and through search engines such as  there it is, open, public, up front, visible ...

What information is specifically private? How do we KNOW this is private when we find it laid out on the www -- not just in the parentless profile? What is it I'm supposed to be protecting? There they are in the profile, probably alive, and there they are in bits and pieces "all over www". Now what?

And what about all the PM who have entered like data on their own people? Have they violated someone's privacy if that privacy is in tatters across the www? Are they in effect saying "I'm not going to let you see this information even if it IS splattered across www."?

I still think being ruthless that one should not enter the profile of anyone you know is alive; that before you enter anyone, check online with the search engines and databases widely available to us, to see if you can locate a death record; and if you have any doubt, then don't enter even their name.

Come to the obit, use the famous ellipsis ( ... ) as in "survived by son... and sister .... and grandchild ...."

If you want provide the URL for this in the Sources that's okay.

BUT it is a bit a toe-crusher when whomever has posted the memorial at Find A Grave has ALREADY PUBLISHED THE NAMES OF ALL THE SURVIVORS along with it ... NOW it is public, NOW it is no longer PRIVATE, yes? So you don't need the ellipsis ( ... )

So what is it we are to protect?

It's on the web. It's in databases. It can be found by a fee to a company which will do all the searching. It can be found in obituaries, announcements, etc and so forth and those can be had by access also I was told, some web site that lets you read newspapers in a search for someone ... if they're in the database of newspapers you can see it ... forget whether it is free or by subscription ...
Thank you, Susan Smith.
In the cases that I refer to a person's profile is private. Their parents profiles are open and have uncleared gedcoms. In the gedcom that is visible on the parent's profile is a list of their children. The children are still probably living. The names and date of birth still are clearly visible on this parents profile. Its an orphan profile so we cannot contact the profile manager. How do we deal with that.
Brass tacks here ...  case where the children do not have their own profile, but are merely listed in the profile of a parent

Note I use the term "you" in the most general sense here, and not You-Judy.

Without attempting to contact and consult with any of the children listed (gotta love the www and social medial) and since I gather no child has its own profile, gird your loins and delete the information on the children. Your own inclination is a healthy one, to protect the privacy of those children.

Your conditioning as a family history researcher is to number and count and tidy up the information AND PROTECT the INFORMATION collected and presented. This is the path of the Researcher, and we do tend to snarl at anyone who threatens to injure or misuse this info. Or who might do so.

You CAN do both, YOU can adopt the whole package and then tidy up and organize and slap on some padlocks. You own it, you can do this. It will enable you to protect the children and to protect the information, both.

Admitted, if you adopt the package it might well add some WikiTree traffic to your inbox, particularly if it is a common surname like Jones, Smith, Williams, Davis and the like.

It is a solution to a dilemma and one i hope not to face myself.

Have to thank the lot of you for forcing me to think my way through a number of issues ref information collected and how to deal with it.

1 Answer

+4 votes
by Melissa Austin G2G6 Mach 3 (30.1k points)

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