@Privacy issues

Started by Ester on Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Profiles Mentioned:

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10/11/2011 at 12:37 AM

I've searched in vain for instructions on the Geni site on how to contact the administrators of this website. Does anyone know how to contact them without 'having to' join the Geni.com first?
I did not wish to be part of the Geni.com database, and much to my astonishment find that the site does not make it easy to contact them directly.

My attempts to contact the site via their 'help@geni.com' remain unsuccessful.

My research also does not reveal how Geni.com collect/harvest their data.

Can anyone help?

10/11/2011 at 3:19 AM

I have recently come across a www.geni.com public profile of me and various other family members online -searchable by search engines including google- In response to a request for geni.com to remove this information from their server (we have now contacted them 8 times) they have twice replied by directing us to this geni community help forum - I still don’t know how a community forum is supposed to have access to the geni server to remove the information which it has by default made public. I don't believe that this company has got any proper control over the information it is hosting - the company is not dealing with personal information/privacy issues properly. Most other proper genealogy sites have a policy where living relatives are protected in line with the census disclosure rules.

I have found out that each member added to a tree is by default given a web page-which can be made a public profile/page - publicly accessible - searchable by l search engines-all the details you have added are then publicly available. This essentially means anyone can create a public profile about you and put all sorts of personal details on it (which geni.com encourages them to do). You do not have to be contacted or made aware this has happened -or that it is public -You do not have any control over the profile. It is not clear to the user that a tree is essentially a collection of web pages. It is not clear to me why geni.com is offering the function of making any of the web pages public -especially for living relatives/people.

There is a fault in the arithmetic functions on the site and they violate their own policy re revealing details about under 13s - on any adult search the list of associated childrens names appear on the timeline- this site needs to be investigated by the authorities for violation to privacy and child protection laws.

In our case the account that generated hte public profiles was closed some time ago -but the information remains public on the geni server

2/26/2012 at 3:03 AM

I'm having this same problem, and have at long last resorted to the join-and-complain option. Geni is spectacularly unresponsive, and its "privacy policy" amounts to a contorted rationalization for an abusively cavalier approach whose ultimate motive, I'm pretty darned sure, is driving membership numbers.

I'll elaborate, given that our Geni folks see fit not to respond either here on by e-mail. Let me give you a scenario:


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.

Did you catch that? 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 have to be 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, and it's at the expense of people who haven't had anything whatsoever to do with Geni! Not members, who've clicked through a privacy policy -- did I mention that when I joined the site to try to beg my naive distant relation to shut his trap, they didn't even have me click through such a policy? -- but innocent bystanders!

Unconscionable. Truly.

2/27/2012 at 5:03 AM

I am truly surprised that the website administrators have not been forced to be accountable and transparent in response to user feedback...

This kind of cyber infringement upon and blatant disregard of privacy issues is incredibly frustrating.

Private User
2/27/2012 at 12:25 PM

We are concerned about people's privacy. The privacy page which Ian mentions says

"You may request that Geni.com remove other information from the current Website by contacting us at misconduct@geni.com with the understanding that Geni.com may maintain an archive of the information you submit not on the Website."

Which is what he did and we responded.

Private User
2/27/2012 at 4:30 PM

According to the Privacy Page, it was revised on Aug. 11, 2011. Definitely items / statements I don't recall seeing. Don't think I made a copy to compare, but am definitely working on digesting what it says now.

Didn't they used to refer to "Max Extended Family" here? Has that term been dropped, or is it some place else that it is used?

Looking at the chart explaining Private vs Public Profiles, it looks like they are saying there is no choice - i.e. for example, folks could not choose to make Public their grandparents (living or deceased) nor make Private living folks they add outside their "Great-Great-Great-Grandparents & Closer". This is not so, is it - or is it now? And if not, is Geni contemplating making it so? [if not so, not contemplated - anyone else feel the chart is misleading, or is it just me?]

re: "Do not supply to us or disclose on the Website any Personally Identifiable Information (except for a name to be used only as a placeholder) of any person under 13 years of age, ... "
- 1) are you saying do not give a date of birth or ?? I thought date of birth was needed in order for the protections to kick in?
2) Explain the compatibility between this directive and Geni's stated goal of being used for "Scrapbooking the lives of you, your kids, and your whole family." - seems rather contradictory to me.

Again, as I said, it has been a while since I looked. Want to help ensure everyone has seen this statement about INTERNATIONAL USERS:
"The Website is hosted in the United States and is intended for and directed to Users in the United States. The Website and services are void where prohibited. If you are accessing the Website from outside the United States, your use of the Website is governed by U.S. law, you are transferring your personal information to the United States, and you consent to that transfer."
I had rather thought Geni was trying to be International, so that "intended for and directed to Users in the United States" was a bit of a surprise, also.

Private User
2/27/2012 at 6:01 PM

Re the chart - I didn't read it as "no choice". I think the words "automatically assigned" just above the chart are key here. You can still change the assignment later.

Re protection of those under 13: Yes - Geni would need a birth date (or at least a birth year) in order to know that the profile is of someone under 13.

I would be interested to know what is meant by: "Do not supply to us or disclose on the Website any Personally Identifiable Information (except for a name to be used only as a placeholder) of any person under 13 years of age". Certainly it is possible to add info re those under 13, including photos. Some of them are even public and curated, such as James, Viscount Severn

I would also like to know what is meant by "Only the people in your family tree can log in to your tree."

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