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Often people are careful about the information that they give out but their friends are not always so careful. Consider these simple examples.


“Hey Bob, I see that it’s your 40th birthday next Saturday. Are we going out to celebrate?”

Now the whole world knows Bob’s exact date of birth, an important piece of information for identity theft.


“I leave next week for my annual vacation to Florida”

Now any criminal monitoring the discussion knows when to rob your house.


“This is a picture of me taken last week picking up the grandkids.”

Your insurance company will make note of this if you filed claims for a bad back.


“This is a picture of my aunt’s house at 123 Maple Street”

Did your aunt give you permission to give out her address?

The second privacy problem is specific to Facebook. Facebook was originally created for college students. It was designed as a kind of school year book that was continuously updated. Basically, it was meant to be a place where school friends could meet online and share photos and stories and talk about each other. Facebook has grown much beyond these original beginnings (it now has 350 million users), but the privacy settings have never really changed. When you get right down to the roots, there are still three privacy levels: school, company and geographic region. There is no privacy level more granulated than school, which is in itself pretty broad.

In the next couple of weeks, Facebook will ask all of its users to review and update their privacy settings. It will totally eliminate the regional network privacy level. Too many people have inadvertently gotten themselves onto this level without even realizing it (how do you think insurance companies can spy on their customers?). Facebook will create three privacy tiers: friends; friends of friends and everyone. As well, it promises to allow users to control who sees each new piece on content.

In our opinion, these are much needed (and much overdue) improvements to Facebook. Genealogy is likely to be impacted by these changes because it is a field that requires the exchange of much personal information. However, in our opinion, genealogy information should never be exchanged at the risk of compromising someone else’s privacy.

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Related Articles

We have written about this issue several times in the past year. Below are links to some of these articles.

Regulator Finds Facebook has Serious Privacy Gaps

Privacy Fears Raised over Genealogy Application on Facebook

Europe Demands Privacy Standards for Social Networking Sites

Who Owns Your Online Genealogy Information?

More Genealogy News