Deletion of profiles due to GDPR

+6 votes
229 views
Not a long time ago I began transferring my personal genealogy from GRAMPS software to WikiTree - confiding that it can enable long time preserving and sharing the data with another family members better than a local database on my computer (I can see ex. "Extraordinary protections ensure that our shared tree will never be lost." on the title page).

Several days ago, the profiles of minors under 13 years of age were removed on the grounds of the GDPR - there was even no massive informational campaign, the data was not sent to its creators before the deletion etc. It absolutely undermined my trust in longevity of the records there.

In the regulation, there is no evident permission of preserving data of persons over 13 years of age without explicit consent of the persons. Thus, probably also these records will be deleted soon, although new interpretations of the norm can change it all. Maybe also now the data will be removed in a similar way as the ones of the minors.

What about other genealogy websites? Are MyHeritage, Ancestors, FamilySearch and others also deleting records of living persons?

What genealogy website should I use, so as my tree will really never be lost? Obviously, WikiTree was a poor choice and vain effort.
in The Tree House by Petr Dohnálek G2G1 (1.2k points)
retagged by Lynda Crackett
https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/601685/significant-privacy-related-changes-to-wikitree-for-gdpr - sent at the end of April

Plenty of other G2G posts debating the subject ad nauseam - and it was announced in newsletters each week.

4 Answers

+9 votes
Petr, The only way you can be sure that no one can remove your data is to keep it on your personal computers hard drive.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+6 votes
I think you will find that all commercial/public sites will be doing exactly the same thing. I am getting similar warnings from any genealogy website I have ever contributed to.

There has been considerable notice that this was quickly forthcoming and what needed to be done to prevent these profiles from deletion.

I had to scrounge around and plead with a lot of parents to become WikiTree members. In hindsight, I think I should have done that when creating any child's profile.

I only wish there had been someway to easily keep those records private to me only until they became of age.
by Susan Fitzmaurice G2G6 Mach 4 (42.8k points)
Yes, that's what I have done. I have not put any of my cousins or nieces  or cousins children on wikitree while they are still living - and yes, they are all over the age of 13.

I do have ONE nephew on wikitree, and he is now unlisted. But I had to add him to the tree just so I could add the other side of his family, and his ancestors onto wikitree.

In fact most of them are over the age of 18, but I still choose not to put them on wikitree simply because that will just put them into unlisted status so I dont see the point.

If any of my cousins express any interest in joining Wikitree then I will be more than happy to help, but no one has so far - except for one sister and one cousin.

I have also kept my own son off wikitree. My husband is now unlisted because while he doesnt mind his details being on wikitree, he didnt really want to join up himself.
+4 votes
Our personal computers cannot be relied upon to withstand fires, floods, and lack of interest from family members in finding and preserving our work--as much as we may dearly hope that would be the case.

The only real solution will be to get the attention of policy and innovation team members here at WikiTree to think of solutions going forward. WikiTree will be able to provide some means by which we WikiTree genealogists can create profile placeholders for known family members, which are not deleted wholesale, but rather are placed in some kind of waiting area where WikiTreers who created them can hopefully at some point get their parents or even the children themselves to adopt their profiles. This would thus be involve future policy decisions (might want to add the keyword "POLICY" to this question), as well as possible future improvements (you might want to add the keyword "IMPROVEMENTS" to this question to get those peoples' attention).

I am writing this answer because I feel your pain, and I have made similar decisions to yours with regard to moving my genealogical research off my computer and over to WikiTree, and also with seeing profiles I've recently established for family members vanish overnight.

As horrible as it's felt to undergo aspects of the GDPR this week, now that so many profiles missing death dates for people in the 1900s have 'gone dark' and so many children's profiles have gone missing--I expect the innovative in our midst are even now brainstorming ways to better collect and preserve our shared family tree history.

For while we all know that of course we can attempt to preserve family data and history on our own personal computers, most of us have had enough computer crashes, fires, floods, and other situations to realize that counting entirely on passing information along that way can often be an exercise in futility.

PS -- It is worth mentioning that I've been working with computers since the 1970s (including programming them, and working with backups and disaster recovery and information security). In that relatively short span of time, I've seen computer hardware and software become unreadable and unusable by myself and others, due to new systems working completely differently. Part of the appeal of WikiTree's stated mission is that it will strive to maintain the ever-improving vast body of information we are collecting, and keep it secure and backed-up. There really is no private individual's system capable of making similar claims, in my opinion.
by Cynthia Larson G2G6 Pilot (170k points)
edited by Cynthia Larson
Cynthia, I have data from a computer that did not even run Windows, saved as a GEDCOM file, that works with a program on my Windows 10 computer so I disagree with your opinion. My data is backed up on several different locations in different formats and I have had no problem re installing it many times and I also started with computers in the 70's, programming, designing and building them. My biggest loss of data happened on a computer that was networked on the early internet.

PS  I have not been able to get the GEDCOM download from WikiTree to load on my current program on my computer but the earlier files work just fine.
I'm glad to hear you've been working with computer systems for decades, too, and glad you're demonstrating savvy with regard to keeping your systems backed up through all the different types of computer hardware and storage systems. I hope you can get the GEDCOM download from WikiTree to load on your current program--or whatever programs you later choose to run on your computer(s). I'm glad to meet a fellow 70's computer survivor.  :-)

I'm sure most people haven't actually 'boot-strapped' computers as I have, nor run punch card programs!  Yet those two situations aside (as they were not for my home use, but rather computers where I worked), I have already in my home a number of systems that have encountered incompatabilities with respect to transferring scanned images, documents, and even data as completely as one might assume is happening.

Possibly my cynicism in this regard comes from having 'worked in the kitchen' with all these computer systems. What I've seen is that claims by programmers that 'everything works' are often untrue, and typically there is data loss of all kinds that usually goes unnoticed and unacknowledged--along with all the other incompatibility issues previously addressed.
My interest with computers began in the 60's but as you said I did not have one for home use until much later. My first systems for home used a tape Input system and the output was very limited then I moved up to DOS. My main interest was radio back then. At work the first system we had that I worked with was a "paper" tape input for programming and in college I helped build early robots along with designing electronic logic circuits, and building them as well. My first home computer that is comparable to what we use today was one I built from the motherboard up so I guess I am somewhat knowledgeable about what can be done with them. For my career I was a CNC machinist and had to know several computer languages as each machine manufacturer uses a different variation and to make the same part on different machines you had to modify the input.
Currently I have 2 Windows 7 machines, 2 Windows 10 laptops, 2 Android smartphones, and an Android Tablet. I am also working on changing 2 older laptops to run LINUX so even at my age I have not lost interest in pushing the limits of what can be done. And just as an aside I just passed the Amateur Extra Exam for my radio hobby, that is the highest class license there is in Amateur Radio.

Back when I had the Tape input system at home I had a man who had a Computer science degree tell me that I could not do something I just demonstrated on that system. My answer was " I wish you had told me it could not be done before I did it".
That's great that you're still learning, and still pushing the limits of what can be done--and wow, congratulations on passing the Amateur Extra Exam!  I love your response to that man who said what you'd just done couldn't be done... Awesome!
Hi Dale,

Because you have the skills, it's easy for you to maintain your data on your own.

The way I look at it, though, is that the only disaster you can't recover from is your own death. Hopefully, you'll have someone in your family who is willing, and able, to carry on the data maintenance (and hopefully further research) that is necessary. For most of us, however, having someone to carry on the the family data might be a slim prospect at best. This is one of the many reasons why WikiTree is chosen to be the platform for hosting this data.
+6 votes
The previous policy was that children under 13 should be placeholders only, with no personal information. So data loss should have been minimal.

Under the GDPR, data on children is in a special category and requires extra care when processing. The same is true for genetic data, which is why data in both of these categories was removed if WikiTree did not have permission to have it. There are no plans to mass delete any additional profiles.

As to which site will keep your tree from being lost, the answer is none of them. Companies shut down all the time. So keep a backup on your computer and put the data you want to share everywhere you can.

Regarding living people on other platforms, FamilySearch allows you to add living people but they cannot be shared with anyone else. Ancestry allows you to add living people and invite other Ancestry users to view all the living people in your tree. I'm not positive about Myheritage and Geni, but I'm pretty sure they are similar to Ancestry where you can add living people and invite others to view them. The living on those sites should remain as long as you have an account on the site, or for as long as the site exists.
by Jamie Nelson G2G6 Pilot (360k points)
When I view other peoples' Ancestry trees, anyone without a death date or not marked as deceased is private.
There is an option to invite people to your tree, and one of the options is to let them see living people. But it's all or nothing -- if you let someone see living people, they can see all living people.

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