Abuse - how is it handled in Geni?

Started by Private User on Thursday, September 22, 2011


Showing 1-30 of 49 posts
Private User
9/22/2011 at 6:26 PM

I was encouraged by a curator to start this public discussion.

I am aware of a case where a Geni user has added fake profiles as a form of abuse to another family member's profile as that person's fake spouse and child. The person being abused cannot remove them because the abuser has blocked the person being abused.

A curator has reported the original abuser who I believe has been suspended, but the abuser has "claimed" the abusive profiles so can log in as those to continue their abuse.

This abuse has been going on since 6 March 2011 and the abusive profiles have still not been removed - in over six months.

The fake abusive profiles are as I said added to a real Geni user as their spouse and child, so they are in a private part of the tree, and I am not going to link to them here. Any Geni staff member or Geni voluntary curator who wants further information on his case can send me a private message and I will pass on the details.

But this public discussion isn't just about this case. It's about how to handle such abuse in general.

In the blog http://www.geni.com/blog/introducing-geni-plus-370136.html there is an exchange with George of Geni where he makes clear that the correct way for any user (Pro, Plus or Basic) to remove abusive profiles is for the user to report the abuse/vandalism to a curator.

Speaking to one particular curator, my understanding is that once a curator has received a report from a user, the curator then uses a report function that is only available to curators. If the profile has already been reported, it will say so. The curator can also click an additional message to suspend the member. The curator has a small message block where they can add additional data. Then the curator just has to sit and wait. They do not get any sort of notice that their request is received or acted upon or denied. Geni CS will contact the curator if they need more information when they are working on the reported matter.

In this case the curator has also followed up with CS but there is no response to date.

In this particular case, the abuse has gone on for over six months. It is still continuing. I have no confidence in the process as to when/if it will ever be resolved.

So extracting to the general case I think there is a significant gap in the Geni handling of vandalism / abuse in private profiles.

I can't believe that this case is unique.

So I would like this discussion to be a focus for Geni staff, Geni curators, and Geni users (non-discriminatory between Pro, Plus or Basic) to share their experiences and in particular to try to reach some positive conclusions in the process for how abuse is handled, to ensure that curators have the right tools and access to the right Geni staff, that Geni staff are assigned to prioritise handling these cases appropriately, and that communications are effective so everyone knows what the process should be and to follow it through to successful conclusion.

9/22/2011 at 9:02 PM

In each and every case where abuse is suspected Customer Service should notified immediately..It is then a Customer Service responsibility to handle it however the think necessary..

To me there is nothing to discuss. It is Geni Customer Service responsibilty to handle this type of issue.

Private User

Private User
9/22/2011 at 9:28 PM

Angus, thank you for your input.

I agree with Angus as to where responsibility should lie. However, in this particular case, CS were notified immediately (in March), and there were further attempts to contact CS since, but the abuse is still there.

A further complication is that since Geni Plus was introduced, Geni Basic users no longer have direct access to CS.

This is why I think there are issues here to be addressed.

Private User
9/23/2011 at 12:56 PM

Users can report abusive by sending an email to misconduct@geni.com . CS will respond privately to the parties involved. We take reports of abuse very seriously, however, we do not get involved in private family disputes. Actions are taken on a case by case basis as we investigate any violations to our Terms of Service.

9/23/2011 at 3:25 PM

Private User I have not had any case of abuse to report. My issue is the lack of notification by Geni in the case of reported abandoned trees and claimed historical profiles. If Geni will report privately to a party who complains about abuse, why will they not report back to a user about other complaints? When I report things, Geni should notify me when any action is taken or not and why.

Private User
9/23/2011 at 4:47 PM

Private User
Thanks for posting that email address. It's a new one to me.

Private User
9/23/2011 at 5:34 PM

Eldon Clark (C) One of the upcoming changes will include a automatic notification when an action is taken.

Private User np unfortunately someone just reported that the email is not working. I will look into what the problem is so we can get it back up.

9/23/2011 at 5:39 PM

Private User Thanks for the update. That will be a lot of help

Private User
9/23/2011 at 7:13 PM

Thanks, Charles.

Private User
9/24/2011 at 5:50 PM

Regarding the email address misconduct@geni.com - yes I am aware of that - it's in the Terms of Use at http://www.geni.com/company/terms_of_use

"If you become aware of misuse of the Geni Services by any person, please contact Geni at misconduct@geni.com."

It's good for others to be made aware of that too.

In this particular case, I think that an attempt was made by the person being abused to send there, but it bounced. I can't be sure. But anyway, CS were made aware of the issue, which is still not resolved.

Regarding Charles' comment that Geni does not get involved in private family disputes, I agree with that totally. Of course Geni does not get involved in private family disputes. It's simply a matter that abuse should have no part in the Geni tree. It does not matter if that abuse arises from a family dispute or a raving religious lunatic or a racist or a drunkard or someone with a non-family grudge. Abuse in the tree is abuse in the tree. That is what Geni needs to deal with in all cases. The underlying causes of the abuse are not Geni's issue. The tree abuse is Geni's issue in all cases.

Charles also said that actions are taken on a case by case basis as Geni investigates any violations to its Terms of Service. Absolutely. And adding fake profiles as a form of abuse violates the Terms of Use on various grounds. I don't think I need to refer to specific clauses here to make my point. The Terms of Use do not discriminate based on the reason why the abuser was motivated to abuse. And rightly so. Abuse is abuse, whether motivated by family issues or by anything else. And it should have no place in Geni.

Private User
9/24/2011 at 5:54 PM

I also support Eldon's post and Charles' response to that. That's great news. I hope the issues raised in this feature request will all be addressed:


Private User
9/27/2011 at 6:43 PM

I am pleased to report that Geni CS, headed by Charles, has now resolved the abuse issue of which I was aware.

I am still not sure of the status of the reporting email that should be used for future cases. I think it is important for Charles and Geni CS to confirm that email is working, and is available to all users, including Geni Basic users. I leave that to Charles and his team.

Private User
9/27/2011 at 8:04 PM

If that e-mail is not working intentionally (or is not fixed after being reported, as it now has been) and is listed as it is in the Terms of Service (which it still is) -- does that make the Terms of Service Fraudulent or some such??

Private User
9/27/2011 at 8:29 PM

Lois, I have not tried to use that email recently, so I can't comment on whether it is now working or not. If there are issues with it (and I don't know if there are), I would expect that they are technical issues. Please: I do not want to be associated with any allegations of fraudulent behaviour, and I have seen no basis for any kind of allegation of that nature. I think we will do better to encourage and help Geni to make improvements, rather than alleging deliberate contrary actions.

Private User
9/27/2011 at 9:38 PM

Charles said: "Users can report abusive by sending an email to misconduct@geni.com . CS will respond privately to the parties involved."

That users can report abuse this way is in Geni's Terms of Service.

With the announcement of Geni-Plus, Geni has stated that they are making "Submit help requests and communicate directly with our customer support staff" only available to Plus and Pro members.

Is "CS" the "customer support staff"?

Is there a conflict between Charles' statement and the Terms of Service on the one hand, and that Change in Service announced with the start of Geni Plus?

Private User
9/27/2011 at 10:02 PM

CS = Customer Service.

What you are asking Lois is exactly what I said about four posts up: "I think it is important for Charles and Geni CS to confirm that email is working, and is available to all users, including Geni Basic users. I leave that to Charles and his team."

In other words, I was seeking confirmation that the restrictions announced with Geni Plus do not apply to that email address. With that confirmation, no conflict will exist.

Private User
9/29/2011 at 4:22 PM

We just confirmed that the Misconduct@geni.com email is working.

Private User
9/29/2011 at 4:59 PM

Thanks for the confirmation, Charles.

2/25/2012 at 6:23 AM

I reached this "Abuse - how is it handled in Geni" topic by searching for "Geni" and "abuse."

What should I say about the "privacy policy" here and its inherently abusive nature?

The practice of leaving relatives outside of a certain window around each user at a "public" level of privacy, exposed to every Google search, is justified by Geni in terms of "collaboration" -- but of course random people searching for a name on the Web really don't necessarily need to "collaborate" in any sense except those to do with identity theft. Strangers out there should not be casually handed my date of birth, my mother's maiden name, and so on. They are being given all that information, though, right now. And I had no idea!

The site's intention, obviously, is to force anyone whose relatives have ever posted them here to join Geni and not some competitor. That would be abusive enough, but of course there are significant implications in terms of making non-users of this site vulnerable to identity theft. One could quite easily state an argument in which Geni itself was nothing but an identity theft ring....

If "public" information was only available to existing Geni users that would be reckless enough, but as things stand right now this site's "privacy policy" is an unabashed declaration of the right to *violate the privacy of non-users*, forcing them to join the site in order to come on bended knee to those distant relatives who have, somehow, come across their personal information. In a master stroke of callousness, too, the site's administrators make themselves staggeringly unreachable except through the expedient of *signing on for a paying membership.* That probably looks good on someone's membership numbers spreadsheet, but it's a punch in the stomach for me. You think this is how to invite new people in? Shame on you.

I'm staggered by the underhandedness of this approach. It's appalling, dangerous.... For a genealogy site to behave in this way is unconscionable, literally: The owners of the site have not checked their behavior against their consciences.

2/26/2012 at 2:57 AM

I'll elaborate, given that our Geni folks see fit not to respond either here on by e-mail.


A relative of yours -- some distant name nobody among your "first degree" relations has ever heard of -- has posted a detailed set of information about you on this site.

That information includes all sorts of identifying grit, including accurate answers to two of the three security questions your bank asks by way of protecting accounts from online access.

It also, though, gets the dates of your children's birth wrong -- to the effect that, when your 9-year-old searches against her name on Google, she learns from Geni that she was conceived and born out of wedlock. Geni has told your child she's a bastard. It's wrong, but hey, time for a nice conversation with your kid. Or maybe she takes her family tree project to school and tells her class.

You are shocked by what's here. What can you do?

Geni has three answers. All of them start with "Open an account on our site, and beg the person who put this information up to give you access to it." Against the possibility that said user will be unwilling, or the very real chance that said user will simply be *unresponsive* -- the "privacy policy" rationalizes that hey, maybe it's not you listed there anyway, because lots of people have similar names.

I'm not making this up! That's actually what the Geni "privacy policy" tells us! Well, that was the FAQ version; the true "privacy policy" page at


helpfully explains that:

* When you add deceased people to your tree, their names are publicly searchable by default, but you can change this in your account settings.
* When you add living people to your tree, they remain hidden from public search unless you make them visible.
* Minors under 13 are never searchable by anyone outside your tree.

Apparently *you are dead.* But wait, no, there's also that FAQ page with its dismissive explanation of your exact situation, so clearly this comes up all the time with non-deceased people who feel utterly violated by this site.

There are serious legal consequences to this. It's quite apparent that Geni sees the convenient exposure of private information as a way to drive new memberships. There's no other possible explanation for the way in which profiles not explicitly marked Deceased are being set to this "Public" level of access.

This is recklessness. It's legal, and ethical, recklessness. At my expense.

Private User
2/27/2012 at 12:10 PM

Ian Westray We are always willing to work with anyone that feels their privacy has been violated. If may seem that we are unreachable but you emailed us on the weekend when the office was closed. We responded to your email first thing this morning. As soon as you respond to the email we will be more than willing to work with you to resolve your issue.

Angela G Stewart
7/16/2012 at 8:41 PM

That wasn't my experience.

Angela G Stewart
7/17/2012 at 12:14 AM

I sought help for sabotage being done to my tree and instead of helping, i was given a refund and granted LESS rights to my own work than a person with a free membership.

Beyond that, my efforts to protect the integrity of my work on mine and my partner's trees and my personal privacy were called a breech of TOS.

Clearly my first mistake was being the ONLY person to completely comply with curator mediation and attempting to resolve the matter in such a way that each party had management over their own ancestral lineage. Who knew that customer support would not consider what had been decided through mediation but would pick and choose which lines of TOS to apppear to enforce?

Angela G Stewart
7/17/2012 at 6:49 AM

I also sought help regarding a profile created by my ex of me but again Geni is powerless to protect my privacy or ensure my ongoing right to privacy.

7/17/2012 at 7:50 AM

Angela G Stewart You are giving lots of generalized complaints but no specifics. How about links to problem profiles along withe specifics about the problem with that profile.

Private User
7/17/2012 at 8:42 AM

Customer Service takes all reports of abuse very seriously but we will not discuss anything that has been reported or any decision that has been made in a public discussion.

Private User
7/17/2012 at 1:45 PM

Private User - do I understand you correctly to be saying that Angie should not be answering Eldon's request for specifics - or just that Customer Service won't discuss or report that info? Also -

According to Terms of Service - Prohibited Activity -- #19 is
"attempting to impersonate another Member or person or posting any third party's (including without limitation any family member's) information on the Geni Services without permission; " - I note that this includes, as the second half --

"...posting any third party's (including without limitation any family member's) information on the Geni Services without permission;" -

doesn't this make it against the TOS for anyone to have posted even the name of a living relative without that relative's permission?

Private User
7/17/2012 at 1:49 PM

Actually - doesn't it make it against the TOS to have posted the name of any living person, relative or not, without that person's permission?

And doesn't that make, among other things, all, or almost all, the Profiles added for the Olympics 2012 project against the TOS?

Is the TOS just something Geni can use at its discretion to punish whomever it feels like punishing, or is it actually meaningful?

Private User
7/17/2012 at 3:57 PM

Private User I said that customer service will not discuss or report anything in a public discussion.

No it is not against the TOS to post the name of a living person relative or not.

The TOS is meaningful and is not used to punish people.

Private User
7/17/2012 at 4:22 PM

Private User - If it is not against the TOS to post the name of a living person without their permission, then exactly what is meant/prohibited by the TOS's second half of item #19 under Content/Activity Prohibited --

specifically, "...posting any third party's (including without limitation any family member's) information on the Geni Services without permission;" - what does this mean??

(believe me, since I saw it, I have been believing that I was violating it for every single person I listed by name without their permission - and have been believing that any time Geni wanted to, they could come down on me because of it - glad to see your assurance that it is not so; But - you say "TOS is meaningful" - so please help me understand what this section, at least, actually means)

Showing 1-30 of 49 posts

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