Privacy Changes on Geni

Started by Customer Service on Tuesday, June 24, 2014


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6/24/2014 at 2:46 PM

We’d like to inform you of some important upcoming changes to Geni’s privacy rules. These changes are intended to enhance the privacy of profiles you want kept private, while at the same time move Geni closer to the widely-accepted genealogical practice of collaborating by sharing information about deceased persons.

Changes to private profiles

The privacy of private profiles will be increased. Private profiles will now display less information to non-family members:

* The name will be shown as “<private> Lastname” instead of first initial and last name (or, in some cases the full name). This is consistent with our parent company, MyHeritage, and will ensure that information on one site cannot be used to augment information not shown by the other. The privatization of first names will be made across all features of the site.

* The profile photo and current location will no longer be publicly viewable by default.

* Private profiles will hide all event dates and locations, as they do today.

* Living people will always be private profiles unless a curator makes them into a Master Profile, which is the case mostly with famous people. It will not be possible to expose information about living people to the public by making their profile public.
Profiles in your close family will remain fully viewable to you even when others cannot see them.

Note that Geni users who are logged in will see the first names of other Geni users even when their profiles are private, in order to allow communication between Geni users. All other fields of private profiles will remain invisible to other Geni users who are not their close family members.

Changes to deceased profiles

In order to be consistent with widely-accepted genealogical practice, Geni will be making deceased profiles public by default. Specifically:

* New profiles for deceased people will be public – but in the rare cases that you wish to make a deceased profile private, you can still do that by editing the profile. You will find a new “Privacy” section at the top of the edit form.

* Changing a profile from living to deceased will automatically select “public” – you can select “private” if you wish the profile to remain private.

* Changing a profile from deceased to living will automatically select “private” – this cannot be changed, as Geni always makes living profiles private (unless they are made a Master Profile by a Geni curator).

* As of July 1, 2014, existing deceased profiles will be changed to public. Some profiles will be excluded from this change:
1. profiles that have ever been set manually by Geni users to public or private (that is, the default privacy was changed)
2. profiles considered sensitive such as recently deceased or those with a living parent

* Profiles that are presumed deceased (based on birth year or estimated birth year from adjacent profiles) will be treated as deceased and therefore will be public by default.

We believe that conforming to the standard practice of most genealogists will make Geni easier and better for all of us, while still giving you control over privacy when you need it. By ensuring that living profiles are kept strictly private, Geni is now compliant with the strictest privacy regulations prevalent in the most privacy-minded countries. By having more deceased profiles as public, collaboration in the World Family Tree will now be easier. These steps will help move us closer to our goal of building the ultimate World Family Tree while handling privacy concerns better.

6/25/2014 at 12:30 AM

So we won't even be able to make our own profiles public, even if we want to? I *want* people to be able to find me on here, and this seems like it will just make all interactions harder.

6/25/2014 at 1:25 AM

Wendy Ann Hoechstetter for your own profile, you can set just about everything to public using your own privacy settings.
These changes will just affect what you can publish about other people.
(Look at my profile - I think it's reasonably public - and will remain so.)

6/25/2014 at 6:04 AM

Hi Wendy,

This change will not force you to make more profiles private than before. All living profiles on Geni are already private.

6/26/2014 at 1:24 PM

Genealogy blogger Randy Seaver voiced his support for the change:

Private User
7/1/2014 at 7:40 AM

Will Geni no longer be allowing Pros to edit Public Profiles in the World Tree as they have been able to do for quite a while, or is Geni using two very different meanings of the phrase "Your Relatives"

-- on the Privacy Page, under the heading "Profile Privacy" - it says
"By default, only your relatives, Geni Curators and Geni Employees can see your full profile." -- on the Chart, tho, under both who can view and who can edit Private Profiles, it has "Your Family Group" -- NOT the phrase "Your Relatives" -- this seems to suggest that "Your Family Group" and "Your Relatives" means the same thing.

But -- on the Chart, under who can edit Public Profiles, it says:
"Your Collaborators Your Relatives Geni Curators Geni Employees" -- Combining this with what the Chart says about Private Profiles is seeming to suggest that "Your Family Group" and "Your Relatives" do not mean the same thing. OR ????

7/1/2014 at 10:21 AM

Hi Lois,

Sorry about the terminology confusion on those pages. We're not changing the rules for who can edit what, only the rule for which profiles are public. I'll fix the privacy page to read "By default, only your Family Group, Geni Curators and Geni Employees can see your full profile." so that "relatives" is left loosely to mean the people connected to you in the tree, plus all Pro's editing the World Family Tree.

7/1/2014 at 11:01 AM

Has this change taken place now that it's July 1st? Or is the change process still running?

7/1/2014 at 11:03 AM

We're deploying the new rules right now -- just a few more minutes.

Private User
7/1/2014 at 1:33 PM

The profiles now show a new privacy section, show most deceased as Public -- and when I change to Private, they say my changes have been saved -- but if I click "edit" again -- it shows as Public again!!

This sort of teasing is not good!!

Private User
7/1/2014 at 3:01 PM

The logged-off version of Geni has changed completely.

You see the name only - nothing else. No birth/death dates. No locations - not even a country. Not sure how this would help those googling. The tree presentation is no longer available.

Master Profiles have limited info, with the tree available.

Private User
7/1/2014 at 3:27 PM

It seems strange (to me, at least) that so many profile pictures have disappeared . . .and now they (the actual profile pics) and the ones that had only the male or female silhouette set as the profile photo have now all become the unknown "it" silhouette. Is this an intended part of the process?

7/1/2014 at 4:00 PM

@lois I'll have to test that -- what profile are you editing?

Private User are you looking at public or private profiles, when logged out? Public profiles should have as much info as was there before.

Private User users have an option to make their profile photo either private or public (see This setting was being ignored before, for logged-in users. We're now erring on the side of privacy, i.e. if you choose to make your profile photo private then it's only viewable to people that you allow into your Family Group.

Private User
7/1/2014 at 4:19 PM

Mike - seems true for all the profiles that used to be Private and still show as Private in Lists (set Filter for Privacy Status = Private), do not have the Globe indicating Public -- BUT in edit, show now as "Public" not "Private".
Have tried well over a dozen. For all I have checked, when I change to Private, they say my changes have been saved -- but if I click "edit" again -- it shows as Public again!! Did you want me to PM you links to some, or ??

7/1/2014 at 4:35 PM

Lois, the bug is in the edit form -- these profiles are still private. I'm working on the Henry / Harry / Henoch profile as an example of the problem, I'll let you know once I think I've got it fixed.

Private User
7/1/2014 at 4:44 PM

Thanks, Mike.

Maybe I shouldn't have said anything - in my opinion, better they all stay private even tho claiming to be Public when click on 'Edit', than to actually be Public. But ...

7/1/2014 at 4:46 PM

I'm glad you mentioned it -- we want to squash the bugs as quickly as possible. It should be fixed now... let me know!

Private User
7/1/2014 at 4:58 PM

Now when I look, it says they are Private, which is as I want it to be. So far, so good!

Private User
7/1/2014 at 5:11 PM

Mike. It's all public profiles - except master profiles (which have a bit more info). Private profiles don't show in google anyway.

7/1/2014 at 5:15 PM

Can you give me an example? I'm comparing a public profile (my second great grandfather) against what we had before and the only significant difference is that we're now hiding the names of adjacent private profiles. The data on my 2ggf is the same as before (dates, last updated, About Me, timeline)

Private User
7/1/2014 at 5:36 PM
7/1/2014 at 6:03 PM

Thanks, we'll check it out. By comparison, Tregear is supposed to look more or less like this: Christoph / Christian Stangel

Private User
7/1/2014 at 6:52 PM

For those wondering -- I tried it, and
Logged out, Elaine's message above appears as:
"Public, non-mp
<private> Tregear

Public, mp
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the USA"

-- cannot click on <private> Tregear

From logged on, Tregear appears as
Public, non-mp
James Tregear
---- with "James Tregear" in blue and clickable -- and def. as Public Profile when one clicks on his name.

Mike's message appears the same whether logged in or logged out, with Christoph Stangel in blue and clickable both logged in and logged out.

7/1/2014 at 7:44 PM

I don;t think the new routines are working. I tried to view a tree and the parents of someone born in the 1800 is not displaying.

Looks like it is not working quite as well as it is explained.

7/1/2014 at 8:59 PM

Howard Lee Eichenwald we're take a gradual approach to switching the existing private deceased profiles public. It may take a week or more for us to process them all.

7/1/2014 at 9:05 PM

Thanks for that analysis, Lois. It appears the site is treating it as a private profile when logged out (both on the profile page and discussions page) even though logged in, it appears public in every way. According to the revisions tab it's been public since Ken Tregear made it public on Sep 29, 2012, and the database has it marked as public, so this has to be a bug in our code for logged-out pages, that we just released. It's late here now but we'll get to the bottom of it tomorrow.

7/2/2014 at 12:10 AM

Harald Tveit Alvestrand
Do you realise that your profile photo is set to private?
As per Llyod3's question above and Mike's response, you are only showing up as a uni-sexual grey mass... not that there is anything wrong with that!

I only mention it because your earlier response to Wendy implied that you are publicly leaning.

7/2/2014 at 12:19 AM

Alex Moes thanks - I fixed that - is my picture public now? I don't know why it turned out that way.

Private User
7/2/2014 at 12:42 AM

Many profile photos are set to private including some curators. Missing some friendly faces now :-) but maybe more like Harald are not aware of it. I hope they change it but its up to them of course. Only saying it because I like to see the friendly faces :-)

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