Complete Geek Boutique

Nothing in cyberspace is sacred

Stolen family history

Remember the “life in a fishbowl” I talked about in my last post? It seems that what we want to keep private, or at least restricted to certain people, is fair game for unscrupulous companies. Even the family tree information many have displayed on the Web is not safe from profit-driven genealogy companies.

Legacy News is reporting that, one of the largest genealogy companies, may have been stealing information from people’s personal family tree Web sites, bundling the information into a “database,” and then selling the stolen information to customers.

Here’s an excerpt from Legacy News:

Basically, Ancestry cached the pages from other’s websites and called the pages their own by requiring a subscription to access them. Imagine Becky Wiseman’s surprise when she received an email from someone asking for more information they found on Becky’s website at Becky does not have a website at, and she knew that what they were talking about was not her free pages at Rootsweb. Becky researched the issue and learned that Ancestry had copied her personal website and made it available, for a fee, at Ancestry.

This didn’t happen to just a few websites.” [Read more about the story here]

As far as I’m concerned, this is just the tip of an iceberg. No doubt others have done this — even relatives. I know of an instance where someone asked for someone’s GEDCOM, and then published that information as their own!

On the Net, whenever you want to find out information about your ancestors, it will cost you. Try to find something free. There ain’t no such thing — either you will get teaser information, or after you join some company’s site, you’ll find a dry well.

Genealogy companies have nosed out the little guy, and have gained control of information that should be the domain of familes, or the American public. And I still scratch my head over this one: How in the world did companies get sole posession of U.S. Census records? Yes, folks, there are big bucks in genealogy, and we’re funding it.

One last thing to consider: If you run a genalogy Web site, where people must log in to access the information — what is to prevent someone from logging in and just copying your information, all the while masquerading as a bona fide user? With today’s trend of not demanding identification on a Web site, other than user names and passwords, you don’t have any idea who they ARE when they get in. Are they REALLY related to your family? Can they prove it? If information thieves are on your site, it’s likely they are not making themselves look suspicious as they mine your family’s information.

And it’s not just companies taking your information. Taking a look from a different angle: What if you share a GEDCOM with a relative, and they turn around and publish it as their own work (maybe even on a genealogy company’s site)?


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This entry was posted on August 31, 2007 by in Musings, News.
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