@Privacy issues

Started by Ester on Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Showing all 26 posts
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 12:40 AM

the data is enetered by the users, if you want information removed contact the person who added it

10/11/2011 at 3:22 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 the public profiles was closed some time ago -but the information remains public on the geni server

10/11/2011 at 3:39 AM

direct me to the profiles and i will delete them

10/11/2011 at 5:22 AM

Thank you I have sent the details in a private message to you I am grateful if you can assist

10/12/2011 at 12:56 AM

If the data can only be removed by the person who entered it in the first place (who is not necessarily you or members of your immediate family), this essentially leaves you without any direct control over the issue.

If the person who has entered your particulars removes your particulars in response to your request, does Geni.com still keep the original data on their server? And if this is the case, I see it as a remarkably gross breach of privacy.

Also, if the person who has entered your details does not respond or refuses to delete you from the 'tree', what are the options for rectifying this? This must be a major flaw in the design of the website, and I suspect that this is done purposefully.

10/12/2011 at 1:36 AM

the data can be deleted by others who did not enter it if the data is public, and no if the profile is deleted it is no longer visible on the database

10/12/2011 at 1:58 AM

Thank you for your assistance in removing the public profiles from the tree. Our issue is that after the account which generated the tree and named another person as tree manager was closed a month later a complete stranger has claimed / taken over the tree manager's account - this gives them access to all sorts of personal information about our family and a means of contacting our family under the guise of being this family member (the tree manager has these priviledges)-this is particularly distressing as they could contact a number of under 13 year olds in our family pretending to be a relation- this site is a violation of child protection laws, privacy laws and encourages identity theft.

10/13/2011 at 1:49 AM

I had no idea that the 'tree'/account can be taken over by some one else after the closure of a public profile.

This is truly disturbing. Why isn't anybody else reporting the Geni.com website to the relevant authorities?

I have been trying to engage 'Amanda' from the Geni staff team, but of course any email responses that are received from her originate from a 'no-reply@geni'. The staff at the Geni.com website are happy to hide their own information and see little concern when other people's information gets the full public airing via their website.

This is an outright abuse of privacy laws and abnegation of duties on behalf of the owners and operators of the Geni.com website where they fail to provide proper mechanisms that will put control of uploaded content into the hands of those to whom the information belongs.

After contacting 'my Content Manager' who has since removed my name from the 'tree' that he has created, I can still see that my name still remains visible when searched in Google and includes my maiden name as a result of the Geni.com link. I have now written to him again with a request to remove the info, however, have not had any response as yet.

I have also written to the Geni teach @complaint and have not received any response from them either other than pointing me in the direction of a forum link.

I am certain that this website is in breach of some basic rules that are meant to provide protection to users and those who 'become' part of the Geni network through no desire of THEIR OWN !

10/13/2011 at 1:51 AM

Jason, thank you for the information provided by you.

10/13/2011 at 2:01 AM

ester the name will remain in google for a while until the google database is refreshed then it will disapear

10/13/2011 at 2:42 AM

Can you advise me as to who I can contact regarding the take over of the tree manager account and effectively my relative's identitiy - we would like all of the remaining profiles of living and dead relatives removed from this tree on the geni .com site. as soon as possible I have previously given all of the relevant details to you (the curator) privately. We do not want a stranger to be able to contact children in our family under the guise of being a relative.

Thank you for your assistance

10/13/2011 at 2:54 AM

i have deleted all profiles connected to the claimed profile so they cant see details of anyone

10/13/2011 at 3:18 AM

Thank you Jason. I really appreciate your support in this matter.

Do you have views on how the Geni administrators chose to abnegate their responsibility to the members of the public to respect their right to privacy in a digital environment? It strikes me as terribly unfair and unreasonably intrusive in the way the administrators have structured their site by removing individual's control over their own data. Also, their reluctance to engage in discussing this issue with concerned individuals and to provide remedies is decidedly reprehensible in my view.

I apologise in advance if you think that my post is excessive. I don't usually carry on like this. However, I do feel very strongly about personal information being published (and subsequently distributed or collected by other search engines) without consent, and the Geni.com site's stance on this issue has incensed me greatly.

10/13/2011 at 3:28 AM

Dear (No Name),

Please take a look at this link, you might find it useful.

<a href="http://www.eff.org/about ">Hyperlink Code</a>

If the link doesn't work for you, here is the name of the website:

EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

10/13/2011 at 3:41 AM

if you have specific information you want removed ester send me a private message and we can discuss

Private User
10/13/2011 at 1:47 PM

Michelle Elena Kempner - I do not even see a heading for FAQ on the help page.

How about a link to the FAQ you think is helpful? And - did you check if it addresses the issue(s) in her first post on this blog - and if so, does it give more that the suggestion(s) she refers to there which she did not like - ie she did not want to join the geni.com database community?

10/13/2011 at 1:51 PM

Sorry, something strange happened with my link in the last post. Thanks for pointing it out Private User.

The FAQ is http://help.geni.com/entries/486381-i-found-my-listing-on-your-site...

10/13/2011 at 1:53 PM

Here is the text of the FAQ. It explains why we can't just go in and delete profiles:

Please note the person who added the profile may be your relative. Therefore, if you have located a profile on Geni which you believe may be for you (or a relative), you may go to www.geni.com to create an account. Once you have, you will be able to contact the profile manager who added that profile to their tree and ask them to invite you, update it, or remove it on your behalf.

We respect the privacy of our users and they have the right to add their relatives to their family tree
We do not go into the accounts of our users to police or remove data
We do not have a way (for certain) to know when an outside person is who they say they are
There may be another person who shares your name; therefore, the profile in question may not even be you
Here are ways to address this:

You may create an account on Geni, contact the person and ask them to update the data
You may create an account on Geni, contact the person and ask them to remove the data
You may create an account on Geni, contact the person and ask them to invite you to their tree
If they invite you to their tree, you may then:

Remove the data and close your account
Remove your data, update your privacy settings and keep your account
Update your settings, keep your account and invite others to join your tree

Private User
10/13/2011 at 1:59 PM

Thanks for the link, Michelle.

If you note, all the suggestions that link/FAQ gives require a person to create an account on Geni.

In her first post, Ester said, "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 ..." -

It read to me like she had already seen this FAQ long ago, and it failed totally to address - or at least answer - her question.

10/13/2011 at 2:39 PM

Private User we have been working on a mechanism for people to be able to report privacy situations without having to create an account first. Unfortunately, it is complicated for a few reasons that are explained in the FAQ:

We respect the privacy of our users and they have the right to add their relatives to their family tree
We do not go into the accounts of our users to police or remove data
We do not have a way (for certain) to know when an outside person is who they say they are
There may be another person who shares your name; therefore, the profile in question may not even be you

We will continue to work on a better solution to this problem.

Private User
10/13/2011 at 2:54 PM

Michelle -

Thanks for you follow-up explanation.

One issue I do not see addressed there or in the FAQ -- what can the person do if, after sending a geni-message, they get no response - or a negative response? I would think this should belong in the FAQ as well.

10/13/2011 at 4:42 PM

Thank you Michelle for your response, and thank you Louis for your contribution to the discussion.

Michelle, as Louis has pointed out in the previous post, directing someone like myself to the FAQ page does not resolve the issues I've raised.

Your reiteration that the Geni.com administrators: "Respect the privacy of our users and they have the right to add their relatives to their family tree" is a particularly non-sensical statement when it comes to protection of personal data and the privacy laws! I do not wish to be one of your 'users' nor do I wish to be part of a family tree that appears on the Geni.com site. As an individual I too have a right to MY privacy. I regard that the structure of your site has directly contributed to the loss of my personal information (ie where my full name together will maiden name has become public knowledge and as a result is now listed in the Google server).

Definition of Privacy (for the benefit of the administrators of the Geni.com site) :

"Privacy is the claim of an individual to determine what information about himself/herself should be known to others" (Westin 1995, 73).

Further, you emphasise that the information/data is uploaded by "a member of your family" or a relative. This is also inconsequential to the issue of privacy. If (hypothetically) I wish to build a family tree and my 3rd cousin twice removed does not wish to be included in my tree, this means that I need to respect his/her wishes!

Geni.com users DO NOT have a 'natural' right to upload information that is deemed personal by other members of their family! Therefore, a mechanism is required to be provided by the Geni.com site where the Geni users first request consent/acknowledgement from the people they wish to include in their family tree before uploading data to the Geni.com site. Further, by making the default setting for uploading information 'Public' the Geni.com website is in violation of privacy etiquette and laws.

"the right to privacy is a personal and fundamental right protected by the Constitution of the United States".

As the Geni.com site is a facilitator for personal data being uploaded by its users, it needs to accept this responsibility for putting in place tools that will make the site comply privacy laws.

Further, the Geni.com website does not explain how it stores data uploaded by its users, how this data is being used and who can access the Geni.com servers.

The Geni.com FAQ link is NOT a transparent nor is it a comprehensive avenue for exploration of privacy issues.

Can anyone explain why is there no 'Contact Us' link on the Geni.com site for the newcomers?
Can anyone at the Geni staff explain why make it so difficult to communicate with staff directly? This does not instill confidence in the site and the administrators running it.

I am not satisfied with the way my issue has been handled. It has taken an enormous amount of my time, it has created unnecessary anxiety for myself and some members of my immediate family who were appalled to discover by chance that the personal names and family connections were publicly revealed.

Hence, I would like the Geni.com administrators to acknowledge and accept the responsibility for creating this very unpleasant situation.

I understand well that we live in a digital age and that many members of the public enjoy the freedom that comes with using the social networking sites. With that freedom also comes a certain loss of personal information. But as an Information Professional myself, I know my rights to privacy and personal information, and I chose to insist on them. I also chose to fight against the unnecessary abuse or blatant disregard for privacy that exist in our society. Living in the digital age DOES NOT remove the responsibility from the social networking sites to respect and maintain those privacy laws.

10/14/2011 at 4:44 AM

Well said Ester - and thank you for the link.

Unfortunately our issues about privacy and our real concerns about child protection regarding children in our family and which have happened as a result of geni systems (which allow a tree manager account to be taken over by a complete stranger) have remained unanswered and undealt with by the staff of www.geni.com . This is despite me communicating the evidence we have which would indicate that this has occurred and asking for the matter to be taken further.

We do not wish to be part of the geni project and we do not want any of our relatives alive or dead to be part of the geni project.

I don't think that setting up a site with a few servers, encouraging users to give all sorts of personal details about people and creating a community forum to get volunteers to try and sort out the many privacy issues which arise (the community forum is littered with them) is a responsible or ethical business

I am not satisfied with the way my issue has been handled. It has taken an enormous amount of my time and it has created unnecessary anxiety for my family.

10/14/2011 at 6:31 AM

Dear (No Name) -

It is reprehensible for the Geni.com administrators to keep ignoring your requests for advice and ACTION.

Apart from the link I've provided, you could also post an opinion on other social websites regarding your experiences with Geni.com as a website (eg Twitter, Facebook).

I will be further exploring and approaching other avenues for reporting the Geni.com website operators for constructing a site that ignores and breaches privacy laws unless the Geni.com team choses to contact me first with advices of rectifying the current structure of their site so as to implement the necessary changes that will eradicate this gross invasion of privacy conducted by their users.

10/15/2011 at 5:44 AM

To Amanda at the geni team - I have received your email but I am unable to access your help ticket system the link you have given just leads to a log in screen and when we try to log in the message " Invalid data from remote login mechanism. Missing name, email, hash or timestamp" appears- please get back to me with further instructions or use an email address which I can reply to since help@geni.com gives automated reply only

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