Adventures in Genealogy Adventures in Genealogy

The Privacy Question

Or "Rednecks, Walking the Tight Rope and Common Sense"

by Uncle Hiram

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

I wanna bring up what is fast becoming a touchy subject, the inclusion of personal data on living people. Sometime last year one of the minor league members of Congress attacked Genealogy as one of the biggest threats to privacy there was. The ideal struck me as being so far out on the lunatic fringe that I wasn't even willing to remember the Congressman's name or use it as fodder for one of my flights of fantasy. A year has passed, genealogy has continued to blossom as the hottest online hobby in America and the amount of information available has grown geometrically. This has resulted in both a bonanza of useful and useless information available.

The unfortunate side effect of this progression is the release of key data on living people. The inclusion of living people in your personal research is not a problem (As long as you have permission), but to put this data on the Internet can lead to some very serious problems. Now wait before you think that your old Uncle Hiram is out chasing black helicopters and Elvis sighting again let me explain at least one problem that leaps to mind.

Let's say you go wandering around the net and find a Gedcom for the "Zandmullers." You open it up and find out that "Enrico Zandmuller" was born on 12 Aug 1975 in Bugshoot Oklahoma. His Momma's name was Zelda Jean O'Reilly and he graduated from Bugshoot University with a Ph.D. in Advanced Watermelon Seed Spiting. You flip over to Switchboard.Com and find out that "Enrico" now lives at 1641 GoatRoaper Dr., Horse's Patoot Texas.

OK now you have his name, birthdate, birth place, mothers maiden name and current address. With this information you can go out and open a Post Office box, apply for a replacement Social Security Card for the "Lost" one. Then you can get credit cards, I mean after you (Enrico) are a college graduate. In other words with that little bit of information anyone can steal poor "Enrico's" identity and quickly destroy his credit while having the time of their lives. I think that most people can now see the reason for NOT including this info on living people on the Internet.

Next time we will discuss what to do if you find yourself listed in someone's online Gedcom.

- Adios and Keep Smiling!

Return to the Adventures in Genealogy home page.

About the Author
"I am not rich or famous so I don't have a pre-prepared Bio written by some high paid ghost rider. So I will just give Yall the relevant facts."

- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)

Additional Information
  • What NOT To Include
  • What To Include
  • What's New in Genealogy ... Today!
    click to view original photo