Last week I was sent an invitation by a ‘distant’ cousin to his my heritage.com website. We are related through our common ancestor, my GGG grandmother. I am connected through her first marriage and he is connected through her second marriage. I logged in and the first thing I noticed that there were quite a number of people in the ‘database’. Many of these names I was able to see were of ‘living’ people and all of the personal data, photos could be accessed. Not one person’s details that was shown to still be living were hidden. I ignored this at the time and didn’t think too much else about it, and thought that I would comment about seeing these details at a later time seeing that I had other more important family issues to deal with.
Today I find out that I am no longer a member of the site. Why? Because yesterday I took a closer look and I actually found my mother, my two uncles and some details of some other of my close living relatives on the site. I have never given this person any information about my immediate family.
Whenever I exchange information with someone, I always provide a gedcom file that only goes to my great grandparents. I sent an email to the site owner yesterday with the following:
“I have removed all details relating to living people that are directly connected to me from your site. I don’t understand how you would have this information as I never provide details about living persons on my family tree to ANYONE. When I exchange data with someone, I only provide a gedcom file down to my great grandparents, so I am again unsure how you have information on the 3 next generations. Can you let me know who provided this information to you? Also, when other people provide me data, sometimes they provide details on all generations even for those that are living (like you did,). My policy is that I normally do NOT upload the information on the living people given to me to my legacy family tree database and if I do, I then mark them as both living and their details as being private and not available for publication. Please show me the courtesy of not publishing the details of my living relatives on your website as I do for you”
Was I wrong in doing this? Apparently yes, as the response I got this morning was: ‘my website is a private site open only to family members and they don’t object!!!!”.
I’m sorry but I do object. I object to having details about my immediate family available to be seen by people I don’t know and are technically not related to my family and if they are, then they are very distant. Just like I object to seeing the private details of people I don’t know. And I still question how he obtained the details of my mother, my uncles and other members. I’ll be honest I am not sure who he would have received these details from.
On My Hertiage, a private site, means that “– The Family Site and Family Tree will be accessible only to site members and webmasters”.
I actually feel sick in the stomach to think that this person has gone as far as removing me from accessing the site seeing that I have objected to having private details available to all members of the site. The concern here is that one, I have been removed from being a member of the site, due to my objections, but also that there appears to be a glaring security and privacy issue with My Heritage.com and I had hoped the site owner would have understood this.
I have done a Google search and have tried to find some information on the privacy settings on the My Heritage website but this is all I could find http://blog.myheritage.com/2010/07/new-feature-packed-profile-pages/ and a comment at the bottom says:
“About privacy, you should also keep in mind that on heritage data of living people (first names, birth dates, etc) is always private! So even if your site is set to public, guests will see instead of the first name and no further data”.
The above is not the case in relation to the site that I was given access to. Details about people who I do not know, were visible, such as their birth dates, marriage dates, photos, comments. Even as a private site and being member should not give a person the right to view these details about living relatives that they do not know just becuase they are a member of the site.
Going to the community page, http://www.myheritage.com/community and finding that I can access and view data and photos of a number of people from around the world is another concern. If the claim on the front of their website is true, that My Heritage.com is free private and secure, than I should not be able to see these details at all.
So what do I do now? Do I send a complaint to My heritage or just live in hope that the site owner actually is going to show me the courtesy of not publishing data about the details of my family who are still living?