Removal of all references to connections to living US Presidents

+9 votes
720 views
Based on several G2G discussions, including the latest https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/687193/post-gdpr-mention-of-living-notables?show=687193#q687193

The US Presidents Project will be removing all references to living US Presidents/Vice President in the profiles of their ancestors.   The leadership is still in discussion about the project management of those profiles.
in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (714k points)
Thank you,  Gaile! So well said.
Very well put, Gaile. I was frustrated by the whole thing, too, but without the protections Chris put in place, WikiTree would be in a very precarious position, as you mentioned.
Thank you Gaile, well said. I also don't like the new rules, but I understand the position Chris is in.
It's just difficult to work, when major parts of your genealogy is unable to be accessed, which is why I'm upset about this "new rule." If anymore becomes unavailable, I will probably be back to total old school research all over again. Just very frustrating.

Well stated Gaile, but you could set the example by not using language such as "that grossly stupid action by the European Union" (and make comments such as "Is that the same California that we're still waiting for it to fall into the Pacific Ocean?") The Europeans did not create Silicon Valley (yet globally we have to live with what it creates in terms of modern life - apps and modern technology and all of the effects that that have on our privacy) and they did not create the massive suit action culture that North Americans seems to suffer so much from. In your own example from 1995, the European Union was not responsible for the laws that gave that lady her millions. I live in the European Union and I am on WikiTree and also appreciate all that Chris and others are doing. So my plea to you is "to exhort to all to either live with it or don't work here" by moderation of our language and respect of each other.

Actually, the quotes you noted were not made by me. However, I understand the work that others have done for the Wikitree website. I also understand all the genealogical work, and all the hours put in, that has been done by those on the U.S. Presidents project. Not to mention, my family and friends who have done genealogy work outside of Wikitree. Little by little, I've been seeing parts of my family tree becoming "unavailable," which makes things difficult to fill in the blanks left within the hundreds of years of genealogy. We have been working on some Presidential genealogy links on the family tree, outside of Wikitree, and it has been decided to not put it on Wikitree, for now, for fear it may disappear and be "unavailable."

I can understand the fear of being sued or fined but this is far outside the bounds of common sense.

I would suggest to you, for example, that Wikipedia is a much larger target with much more to lose.  Yet they still have a profile of presidents Trump, Obama and Bush, Queen Elizabeth, Theresa May, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence and every other politician and celebrity on the planet.  This alone should be an indication that wikitree has absolutely nothing to fear from the GDPR with regard to profiles of public figures.

It is disingenuous to say if you don’t like it, then go away.  I have 62,700+ wikitree edits (all made one at a time without a gedcom upload) and hundreds of hours invested in making wikitree a better place.  I think I will stay Gaile, and argue for some common sense, even if it isn’t falling in line with some leadership decisions.  This is one policy which needs a little deeper thought put into it.

I do see these decisions as hurting both the promise and the future of wikitree.  Part of the fun of genealogy is being able to make connections to each other, to historical figures, and to celebrities.  Since the beginning of wikitree a key feature has been the relationship finder and the connection finder (how many steps are you from Queen Elizabeth and Kevin Bacon?).  Wikitree is less useful and more confusing to new people when you can’t even enter your immediate family and share your tree with your nearest relatives.

Again, this fear of being fined does not make any sense.  These people are public figures whose lives, data and connections are readily available from hundreds to thousands of sources (I would actually make this one of the criteria for what a public person is on wikitree).  Why should wikitree be the only entity taking such drastic steps?

Joe, I agree. Thanks for reminding me of the disingenuousity and flippancy of the statement "if you don't like it then go away". I too have spend many valuable hours of more than 123757 edits without making one gedcom; I do not want to subscribe to this. WikiTree has to be prepared for class action law suits but with proportionality and understanding, not visceral emotionality that reeks of populism. I still believe in WikiTree and that it has a bright future.
Repeating some things I said in another G2G:

WikiTree responded to the GDPR with a policy that could be implemented quickly and would not require a lot of interpretation to implement.  In spite of the apparent simplicity of the new rule, it was a lot of work for the Team to institute the necessary changes.

Now that the dust has settled, I hope that Chris Whitten and his attorneys will be able to acknowledge that the policy reflects an overabundance of caution. Nobody is going to sue WikiTree for revealing that Elizabeth is Queen of England and has a husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, nor that U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush (both living) are father and son. Their profiles should not need to be Unlisted.

And it's painful to see members wrestling with the problem of getting a 90-year-old family member living in a nursing home to get access to a computer, sign up for an email account, register on WikiTree, verify their email address, log in, and  register their DNA test in their WikiTree profile. There should be some way for a person to indicate their permission to use their data without having to become adept at using a computer.

I hope we will see relaxation in the rather draconian measures that were taken to avoid legal issues. But I don't think WikiTree should be excoriated for its initial response to GDPR.
Even though I am co-leader of the Presidents Project, in light of recent changes and extreme policies, I have seriously been considering withdrawing all my contributions to my tree and cancelling my membership.

6 Answers

+10 votes
I agree with Vic. I can understand us common peeps, but royalty, poiticians, and celebs understand that a certain amount of privacy is lost just because of their public status.

I never knew that Johnny Depp had a daughter until I saw Yoga Hosers.
by Lynette Jester G2G6 Mach 6 (66.3k points)
Oh Lordy.  I Googled Yoga Hosers. "Sorry boot that."
And there's a sequel.
I own every early Johnny Depp movie, but I might not add "Yoga Hosers" and sequel to my collection.  Cry Baby, Blow, Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Dead Man.  He's a chameleon.
+8 votes
Has anyone actually read (and understood) the GDPR?
by Robin Anderson G2G6 Mach 4 (40.4k points)
I am confident that as the founder and President of Wikitree that Chris Whitten has read it, understood it and put in place the safeguards that he feels are correct for this site.
I have not read the GDPR because I have no idea what the initials stand for.  Which is common on wikitree.  Is GDPR some Wiki Tree thing or is it refering to the EU data protection thing going on.
Trudy,   Here is the original post from Chris that explains it all.  https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/601685/significant-privacy-related-changes-to-wikitree-for-gdpr?show=601685#q601685

Thank you for asking.
Trudy, it's the European General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) law.
Thank You Robin. I read the link you provided. It was helpful.
Eric thank you.
+7 votes
Can someone post the Living Person's App link that Jamie created? I want to see if I have anyone like that in my watchlist, including leftovers from the Presidents project.
by Maggie N. G2G6 Pilot (888k points)
Thanks, Juha.
+6 votes
Just for claification.  Example:  son of a living notatable writes a book about the ancestry of the notable.  Does this mean that the book written about the notable can not be mentioned.  Even if the book is written with the permission of the notatable?  With the forward being written by the notable?  

I have 2 ancestors that may be the ancestors of 6 living presidents of the United States.  Does that mean that all references to them on the profile such as " direct ancestor of" will be removed.  Also should the profile be removed from the catorgory Direct Ancestor of a President of the United States or what ever it is.

Does this also mean there with be no more mention of " so and so" is 4th cousin of" what not who ever"
by Anonymous Roach G2G6 Pilot (185k points)
edited by Anonymous Roach
+7 votes
If taken literally, this means that we would need to remove the names of living authors from citations. Do we need to do that ?
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (782k points)
Good remark. I hope we'll be able to find a compromise where it's possible to cite the names of people in the context of their public activity.

Otherwise, not only will have lots of stuff to delete, but each time a notable die we'll have to come back to all the profiles where they might be cited in order to repair the mentions of their name.
+2 votes
Sadly this is hampering historical research to make it easier to re-write history. It is also being used in lawsuits to promote censorship. Some is enforced, most is self-censorship.Things I was taught in 5th grade they don't even teach by 11th grade now. It's like the more sophisticated we get, the less we know.

The Internet radically changed this trend. Information was freely available to research. Views could be expressed. People could debate and learn. Now that is slowly being taken away one step at a time. I'm not blaming Chris for his decision, I'm blaming the EU who writes laws nobody wants and then enforces them on people that don't even live there.
by Steven Tibbetts G2G6 Pilot (300k points)

I haven't seen this happening in the UK . Can you cite some examples? I note that some of the social media sites claim to have tightened up rules on their usage by children ( surely a good thing if it were effective)

 There was certainly a high profile case against the BBC that some Journalists suggest may have provided a precedent for restricting press freedom . That case was brought under previous laws not the GDPR. (Personally I felt that the particular reporting was intrusive and unfair but I'm not a lawyer

Note I haven't used the name of the ageing pop star involved but only because of wiki-tree policy .There is absolutely no problem with reporting this case  in European Countries . ( And we still have more than our fill of stories about 'famous' people including those about the Royal family , politicians and others in the public domain.)

As for historical research, I'm not sure how you believe we are being hampered. The most revealing research probably comes from oral testimonies. These are still  conducted and research based upon them can and will be published. 

The consent forms for such interviews may have in some cases been tightened up (but  not always since many research institutions already used compliant protocols) http://www.ohs.org.uk/advice/data-protection/

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