Why is Unlisted no longer Unlisted?

+7 votes
As I recall how Unlisted worked previously, the Unlisted child of a parent was completely invisible to anyone not on the trusted list for the Unlisted child.

I have noticed now that if someone looks at the profile for the parent of an Unlisted child, even if not logged in as member of Wikitree, let alone being on the trusted list of the Unlisted child, on the profile of the parent, the child is shown as [private daugher (1990s-unknown)].  Thus even though the child is Unlisted, the existence of a child of a certain gender and approximate age is being disclosed to the world.  Thus even though the child is Unlisted, their privacy is being treated as if only Private, as far as I can tell.

I learned of this when contacted by someone about such an Unlisted person because it was also revealed that I was the manager of this profile!  So I had a look from a different browser, not even being logged in to Wikitree and saw that all this information was being disclosed.

Is this a deliberate change, or an oversight with all the recent changes that have occured.  I would have certainly expected that Unlisted would be "entirely hidden from everyone except those on the Trusted List" which is what is stated about Unlisted under Wikitree Help.

Seems like this needs to be addressed immediately for otherwise in this case, privacy has been compromised even more than it was before!
in WikiTree Tech by Kevin Huscroft G2G1 (1.5k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

3 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer

I have never paid much attention to "Unlisted" profiles until recently, but I don't believe the policy on information display has changed. Unless I am on the Trusted List for the profile, or the profile of an immediate family member, all I see (and all I used to see) is "[private daughter (1990s-unknown)]". I can only identify the Profile Manager if I have the person's WikiTree ID.

What has changed, is that due to GDPR:

  1. Unlisted profiles of children under 13 have been completely removed from WikiTree unless their parents are WikiTree members (and gave permission for the profiles to be here)
  2. Living people who are not members of WikiTree now have Unlisted profiles.

Until last week, almost all Unlisted profiles belonged to that first group: young children. Removal of those profiles has increased their privacy, not reduced it. The vast majority of the profiles that are now Unlisted are for people who before last week had lesser levels of privacy (such as "Private").

by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
selected by Chris Whitten
Ellen is correct, Kevin. This is not new. If a person has a public family tree, Private and Unlisted family members will be shown as "[private X]".
I similarly manage a lot of profiles for close relations that were previously Private and are now Unlisted.  But the profile that highlighted the issue for me was one created since the change in policy where, similar to Honi Kleine, this newly created profile was unlisted for a specific reason.  It seems completely unacceptable for Wikitree Help Index to state something about Unlisted that is no longer true, and for a privacy option that previously existed to be relaxed due to GDPR.

Clearly this seems to be a mistake where code has not been modified appropriately during this change and thus Unlisted profiles are being treated as if they were only Private in some cases.  This needs to be addressed pronto.
Are you certain?  I seem to recall specifically checking this a while back using a separate browser that was not logged in to Wikitree and absolutely nothing was revealed about an Unlisted profile.  Now it is being revealed that such a profile exists, the gender of the profile, the approximate age of the profile and the manager of the profile.  This is directly in conflict with what the Help Index says about Unlisted.

Hello Chris,

In all of this I am not focusing on profiles that previously Private and are now Unlisted.  I am focused on profiles that were Unlisted specifically because the claimed features of Unlisted were desired.  I believe that I explicitly tested Unlisted before the recent changes, and something has changed in how Unlisted profile are being treated.

Also, your comment about "If a person has a public family tree, Private and Unlisted family members will be shown as "[private X]" does not make sense for it implies that the privacy setting of the parent, can override the privacy setting of the child, i.e. even if the child (who may be an adult member) wants their profile to be Unlisted, that the privacy setting of the person above them will allow their existence, approximate age, and their profile manager to be revealed to the world. 


Do not think of this as what happened to people who used to be Private.  Think of this as what someone like an adoptee or the like may need if documenting his real family tree to be shown only to those on his trusted list and using Unlisted to appropriately keep things very private.  Then you can understand the issue.


As I have said before, what is now being revealed about Unlisted profiles is in direct conflict with what is stated about the Unlisted profiles in the Wikitree Help Index where it states that "Unlisted profiles are entirely hidden from everyone except those on the Trusted List."

One interesting issue is that when I search Google for the name of a living relative whose profile was recently converted to Unlisted, the search results include her profile.
While I have not Googled an Unlisted profile, before using Unlisted for a situation requiring an Unlisted level of privacy, I checked what was visible from a browser that was not logged into Wikitree to ensure that I was seeing what someone not on the trusted list could see, and was satisfied that nothing was disclosed.  That is certainly not the case now.  While I did not keep a record of this test, I am personally very convinced that something has changed in a very bad way for people who want a profile to be Unlisted.  The focus of my concern is not people that used to be Private, but profiles that already were Unlisted for a reason where their privacy now seems to have been compromised.

Hello Ellen,

I am dealing with an Unlisted profile created on May 28th, i.e. after the GDPR changes.  I cannot find it on Google.  I suspect that you are finding older profiles on Google that used to be private because Google has cached information, i.e. taken a snapshot of what was there before and still presenting it now.

Neverthless, I am concerned that profiles that have always been Unlisted are being disclosed via the Wikitree web site to members and non-members who are not on the trusted list for the Unlisted profile, even though it is stated that "Unlisted profiles are entirely hidden from everyone except those on the Trusted List.", which seemed to be true before the recent changes.

Thus in implementing these GDPR changes, Wikitree seems to have disclosed "sensitive" information about people who wanted to be Unlisted.

I never created, nor managed, an Unlisted profile before the GDPR situation arose. It seems to me that if people's data need to be kept profoundly private, those people shouldn't have profiles on this website.

If you are deeply concerned about a person's privacy, you could enhance the privacy of the profile by removing the birth date from the data field (leave the date in the biography and mark the person as "Living" in the death section of the data) and blanking out the gender.
Thanks for the suggestions Ellen.

But my main concern is that Wikitree Help very clearly states how Unlisted is supposed to work (and how I strongly believe it used to work, for I tested it before depending upon it) and some people have legitimately used Wikitree assuming that Unlisted should work the way it claims that it works, for situations that demand privacy, and now it is apparent that Unlisted does not work as stated in Wikitree Help.  Right as we speak, some people are no doubt creating Unlisted entries for their young children, or to protect sensitive family issues (such as being adopted, and not wanting to disclose this to the world, but only to the people on their trusted list who have been brought into the know, and who have worked collaboratively with the adoptee on his/her genetic family tree) based on what is stated in Wikitree Help, and unless they go and test Wikitree from a non-logged in browser, they will not realize that their privacy is not being respected as stated by Wikitree itself.

If Unlisted did not exist, then the issue would not exist.  But Unlisted exists and does not work as stated, and I believe it has been changed to reveal more than what it did only weeks ago, which has put the privacy of any people that used it risk.  Just because perhaps only a few people use Unlisted to truly achieve what Unlisted supposedly provides, it is a big deal to those that are depending on it to behave as advertised (as opposed to the many profiles that just got switched to Unlisted from being various forms of Private).  I do not think it would look very good if only days after making changes to adhere to GDPR that one might read news about Wikitree revealing information about Unlisted people in violation of what is stated in Wikitree's own Help Index which is supposed to document how things work.

Personally, I do not know how to contact "management" at Wikitree but I do not think this issue should be ignored.
Chris Whitten is "management," and he is aware of this discussion.
I recently adopted some orphaned "Shoults" profiles.  Now, I see that I am the profile manager for some "unlisted" profiles.  When I try to view them, I am taken to an explanation page that says only the profile manager can view them.  I don't think that I can even remove myself as profile manager.  My name is listed as profile manager on the Shoults Genealogy page:  https://www.wikitree.com/genealogy/shoults
+6 votes
Thanks for the heads up Kevin! I now have a situation with an unlisted adoptee showing as an unlisted son on the profile of an individual who only had "known to family" daughters. I really don't want to disconnect or merge this profile away but it was unlisted for a reason.
by Honi Kleine G2G6 (8.9k points)
+3 votes
The privacy is more secure than it was before. In the past this profile would have had the name and gender as well as the decade of birth. now it just shows the birth decade and gender and by deduction the LNAB, so even less information is being revealed. As far as revealing that you manage the profile, that is a good thing because unless they are on the trusted list nobody can see any information on the profile so if they need to know if the profile matches a person they want to add to WikiTree, to avoid duplicates, the only way to find out is to contact the manager.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)

Are you sure Dale?  I am not focused on profiles that were previously Private and have been changed to Unlisted.  I am focused on profiles that were Unlisted for a reason because the privacy option of Unlisted was very explicitly desired, i.e. that nobody except those on the trusted list for the profile would be shown anything about the profile.  In fact Wikitree Help states "Unlisted profiles are entirely hidden from everyone except those on the Trusted List."


I believe that I tested this months ago by going to Wikitree from a different browser that was not logged in so as to ensure that what I was seeing represented what the public could see, and I confirmed then that not even the existence of an Unlisted profile could be seen.  Now I have been contacted by someone enquiring about the details of an Unlisted profile that I manage which has been a shock.  And I have done the same test and have seen that the existence of Unlisted profiles attached to other profiles is being disclosed, along with the gender, birth decade, and profile manager's name, which certainly did not seem to be the case before.


To understand the concern, see the comment from Honi Kleine.  This is not a minor thing if adoptees are involved.

Kevin, before the change last week Unlisted was only to be used for children under the age of 13. A lot of those have been deleted. Now it applies to any living person who is not a member  This means that the privacy setting of Unlisted as it now stands is not the same as what it was months ago.

How Unlisted is described in the Help Index is not consistent with how it behaves at present and I believe that the behavior has changed in the last few weeks as I definitely tested this a while back and I was convinced that Unlisted was behaving as expected then, i.e. that  "Unlisted profiles are entirely hidden from everyone except those on the Trusted List."

Before the change last week, Unlisted was NOT only used for children under the age of 13 and I was aware of no prohibition on using it in other cases requiring privacy and Wikitree did NOT enforce that profiles not be Unlisted if the person was over 13 years old (nor does it now, obviously).

I know of situations where Unlisted has been used when adoptees are involved where the people collaborating were depending on the stated behavior, i.e. that "Unlisted profiles are entirely hidden from everyone except those on the Trusted List."  It does not seem to be at all acceptable for Wikitree to have their highest level of privacy not behave as it is stated to behave, especially if it has recently changed, as I believe is the case, thus disclosing sensitive personal information that was not intended to be made publc through Wikitree.  I am not aware that there were any prohibitions in the past, or now, about using the Unlisted privacy option for important privacy purposes such as dealing with adoptees reconnecting with birth families and appropriately controlling such information as a subset of such families collaborates, and it seems reasonable to expect Unlisted to function in the manner that it is claimed to function in the Wikitree Help Index.

For someone joining Wikitree today and studying the Help Index, they would would be misled into thinking they could attach their children as Unlisted with confidence that even the disclosure of the existence of these children to the world would not occur, and yet they would later find out that such is not the case.  And some times, such unintended disclosures will have significant consequences for the people involved.

If as you say, Unlisted is not the same as it was before, why has the documentation not changed, and people not been notified, and why has it been assumed that it would be fine to make Unlisted well... less Unlisted?  If, on the other hand, it is true that nothing has changed functionally, well then perhaps my testing in the past was not accurate, but I doubt that, as I did the same test today, after the shock of being contacted by somone who had seen some info about an Unlisted profile that I manage, and I was very surprised to see that Unlisted information was visible to the public, whereas in the past I was convinced it was completely invisible as expected. 

Regardless, the current description of Unlisted in the Help Index is not consistent with the privacy protection behavior now occuring.  Unlisted should be Unlisted!


My sister has been unlisted since I created her profile in 2015 and she always showed up as [private sister] when viewing the public version of my profile.

Kevin, this is all that displays when i check the public view of an unlisted profile I manage "

This anonymous profile represents a living person with the surname Tuttle born in the 1980s.

Information on Unlisted profiles can only be viewed by friends and family members on the Trusted List. Send a Trusted List request.

To ask a question, send a private message to the profile manager, Dale Byers."  I see no problem with the very little data that is displayed and think the addition of the link to the manager is good because it will only help to minimize the creation of duplicate profiles. All I have to do if someone asks about that profile is to confirm that they are asking about the correct person and if they are then I must decide to allow access or not. If they provide enough information to prove to me that they are related then I could add them to the trusted list, otherwise I could just either confirm that the profile is for the person they are asking about or deny the same. Also originally the use of Unlisted was intended to be only for minor children but over the years it has changed and recently it has become required for all profiles for people who could be living and are not members of WikiTree.

@ Dale: That's fine, for the public view of the Unlisted profile itself.  What is being discussed is the view from *somebody else*'s profile or their pedigree tree.

There, you see [private daughter 1990] - which I think you always have been able to see, actually, although others disagree.  But it does specify the gender and the decade of birth, which upsets some people.


Clearly my long explanations are not being understood, or the implications appreciated. Maybe this will get some attention:

As Wikitree stands today, for any parent who attaches Unlisted chldren, following the most stringent privacy option that Wikitree allows, after being assured by Wikitree itself in the Wikitree Help description that "Unlisted profiles are entirely hidden from everyone except those on the Trusted List", if the parents profile is not Private or Unlisted, Wikitree discloses the gender of such children and whether or not such children are under 8 years old to the public, and the parent will have no idea that this is occuring, unless they test Wikitree by accessing their own profile while not being logged into Wikitree.

I have just tested this with my daughter's profile (who is Private With Public Family Tree) where her children's profiles are Unlisted (as they must be and have always been).

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