Post-GDPR Mention of LIving Notables

+4 votes
Forigve me if this is already addressed, but I searched I didn't see this nuance discussed.  

The question is -- what are the current WikiTree restrictions on mere mention of living notables?

Situation is this -- Person Profiled (PP) is an ancestor of a living US ex-President (XP) and living US ex-vice president (VP).  A couple of years ago when I added information to PP, I thought the descendant information was interesting and added notes regarding XP and VP.  Recently someone who didn't know about the relationship of PP and VP commented with a question, but since the WikiTree Profile of VP is now unlisted, WikiTree can't provide the relationsal answer which it used to be able to easily do.  The note about VP was then removed from the profile.  

Perhaps the profile of PP shouldn't contain any interesting information about notable descendants.  I could understand that.  Otherwise, if this was about Wikitree privacy policy, I'm surprised that the note about XP was not also removed.  

But that doesn't answer the broader question of WikiTree policy for even mention of a living notable in a post-GDPR era.  You'll notice, of course, the extent to which I'm going to not refer to actual names -- or even identify the affected profile -- in this note.  This is a WikiTree policy question.

We know that the profiles for XP and VP are now unlisted because they are living notables.  But because they are notable their existence and many facts of their lives are quite public.  Are we allowed to mention them by name anywhere on WikiTree?  Are we allowed to discuss any aspects of their ancestry even though their actual profiles are unlisted?  Are we allowed to say, "for more information on this, contact Member-123 offline?

As a matter of background, I first became aware of the relationship of XP and VP and their common ancestor PP (who is also my ancestor) when they were on opposite sides of an election and a reporter discovered the relationship and attempted to interview each candidate about it, writing up the results in a newspaper article.  So this question is certainly not about actual privacy, and it is not about DNA, but simply about what current Wikitree policy regarding the mention of living notables is!
in Policy and Style by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (364k points)
edited by Jack Day

3 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
Hi Jack,

Our rule is: "You must not share information regarding a living person without that person’s explicit permission."

We do not make exceptions for notable people whose information has already been shared publicly. This may be legally defensible, even under the GDPR, but it would put us in the business of defining "notable" and what it means for information to have already been shared.

I know it seems unreasonable, but we have decided to keep our rules simple on this.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
selected by Eowyn Walker
Thanks, Chris.  That's the precise answer I was looking for.  In the situation I posed, it means that the reference to XP as a descendant must also be deleted;  it was not adequate to delete VP alone.
To be clear, this means that all the project tags, and biography statements about ancestry, and references to things such as Wikipedia that would link a person to a living US President/Vice President should be removed?
It seems to me that there's no reason to define "notable" since Wikipedia already does that.  If the person is notable, they can have a Wikipedia page.  If they are not, they don't get one and if someone creates one, they have a mechanism to catch it and question it and remove it if required.  If we used as our standard that the individual had to have a valid Wikipedia page as evidence that their information is already in the public domain, that should protect Wikitree from any liability. You could also make a rule that any added info must have some other online source.  I'm not a lawyer but this seem like an easy test.

Of all the idiotic policies on wikitree this is now #1.  It is a policy which does not apply to me, does apply to the public figures mentioned, and does not even correctly follow the GDPR law for people in the EU.

Franky, I find your infringement on my rights to Free Speech and Free Expression to be fairly disgusting.

Chris, I asked this elsewhere, but got no response:

Does this mean that we have to delete the names of living authors from citations-- or get their explicit permission to cite them? I.e., Robert Charles Anderson, author of the Great Migration series that is the foundation of our work on the Puritan Great Migration project, is a living individual. His name is found on hundreds if not thousands of profiles here on wikitree as we cite his work.

There are other wikitree projects that also rely on the works of living authors who could also be affected.

How far does this policy go?

You are citing a published document not divulging personal information about the author.  Therefore you can continue to cite his name. A name alone (as in a citation) is not personal data.
Deborah, I'd tend to agree with you but that is not what the language of Wikitree's rule indicates.
"Free Speech" and "Free Expression" don't apply to private organizations. WikiTree is such an organization and can set its own rules on what can and cannot be made public.
Actually a citation is not personal information about the author.  If this were the case then researchers in universities around the world would have to cease and universities would shut down.  No education facility would be able to teach without access to citation indexes etc. Therefore you most definitely can cite people’s names, just not their other personal data in sources.
+2 votes
This has been discussed ad infinitum, with most people thinking it is ridiculous having someone like Queen Elizabeth marked as Unlisted.  However, WT policy is: notable or not, if they're living (or even only potentially living), they're Unlisted.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Ros, that is not my question.  Another way to ask my question is this:  On the profile of a person who died 300 years ago (PP), are we allowed to say that he is an ancestor of (Name), who was Vice President of the United States, in (years), who is still living?

Or perhaps another way of framing question -- did you (inadvertently, of course!) just violate WikiTree policy by naming a living British monarch while in a Wikitree discussion?  And perhaps a variation on my question -- is WikiTree policy the same for discussions on G2G as it is regarding mention of living people on profiles of dead people?

I didn't violate policy.  I didn't say where she was Queen of, thus not narrowing it down who she was. cheeky

And you ended your question by saying:
"So this question is ... simply about what current Wikitree policy regarding the mention of living notables is!"

So I simply answered.

I think it's ridiculous, but I try to remove references to living notable descendants from ancestor profiles (living non-notable descendants having usually no reason to be mentioned).

So I have a link to an online newspaper article as source for a certain André Macron which gives some genealogical information on this person (who is deceased, but born after 1918, living child(ren) who is (are) not notable, and primary sources - records - not yet available online). The profile is private, so I've simply commented out the source so the mention of a connection to a living person is hidden from view.

Same when asking a question on G2G "Can someone please help find a source for X (dead person, with name)" and inside the question :"By the way, X is the ancestor of a living notable (name withheld for privacy)".

Better to err on the side of caution.
I'm right there with you Isabelle, and it's horribly frustrating, but I agreed (as did we all) to follow the rules and will continue to do so.

So I'd agree that mentioning a name of a person is not really a gray area, as mentioning Clint Eastwood, the actor, is not a "personal" issue. Discussing his marriages, children, ancestry, or what he had for lunch yesterday could fall into less of a gray area and more of a GDPR concern area, and so we try to avoid it.

At the same time, keep in mind that millions of profiles were created pre-GDPR and may contain pre-GDPR language that could need adjustments. My recommendation there would be to make updates as suggested to slowly get us more in line with current rules, and at the same time try to retain as much information as is allowed. If this means we link out to where better information can be found and we allow those other sites to accept the risk (as small or great as it may be, regardless), then perhaps that's what we do for now.

And it is always possible that a mistake will occur. It's tough when the news agencies talk about things, or an obit mentions living persons, so if an "oops" occurs, be kind and kindly point it out or fix it if you feel it's appropriate and give the person some grace if they provide an initial knee-jerk response. We're all adjusting to the new conditions and it helps when everyone is trying to be "helpful" as much as possible.
Just for the sake of adding a comment, my half sister Linda, who is living in Brainerd, was married to a man who had a lot of children from different marriages, but was estranged from them all except his and Linda's. I did not grow up with Linda and only was involved with her a short time until she allowed a friend of my sister's to assault me in front of my parents and sibling and her son. However, I have created a profile of her and her family and it is private, but her now deceased husband was a fishing guide in the boundary water canoe area and did take Paul Newman there on several occasions, before I knew him. But they were proud of this connection. So is it so, that I cannot put these events about this situation because all of them are alive except her husband, the fishing guide. And though 'ALL' of the children know him, he was in the paper with a front page story about where one of his children seeking to know his love did a search for him and found him hoping to discover the love and warmth of him yet he refused to acquiesce this person. How is that for an example?
Paul Newman is deceased, so no problem there.
I did not know Paul Newman was dead. So it is for those persons who know him to tell more of the story then me. Thanks!
He died in 2008 of lung cancer.  He was 83.
+2 votes
It is personal data that is covered by the legislation however names alone are not personal data.  The name needs to be linked to a date (birth, death, marriage etc), address or other identifying data in order for the legislation to be effective.  If I say I’m related to John Smith then it doesn’t identify which John Smith.  If I say I’m related to [[Smith-100|John Smith]] then it identifies the specific person but doesn’t divulge any personal data about that person if Smith-100’s profile is Unlisted. So again personal data is not divulged.  If Smith-100’s profile is not Unlisted then they need to be dead under the legislation as personal data would be divulged.
by Deborah Talbot G2G6 Mach 5 (57.6k points)

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