I recently edited a question Brick Wall: Searching for Grandfather - C&EI Railroad Employee in 1948 - who the heck was he? to remove the name of an individual that might still be alive, to bring it in line with our faq which states that we don't allow questions about locating identifiable living individuals.

Do we need a consensus on the criteria by which we judge that an individual might be living? In the US, I believe there's a 70-year restriction on access e.g. to census data to protect the privacy of the living. In the UK, there's a 100-year rule. No doubt elsewhere there are other relevant periods of time.


I vehemently agree we should not allow the dissemination on information about living individuals without their consent. I think we should even be careful with the recently deceased. But I think we should be careful with any 'rules' so we don't stifle legitimate questions on deceased people. So maybe caveat the 72 year rule with unless they are known to be deceased at least a year ago.

  • So you think it should be 70 years (meeting US standards) and not 100 years (meeting UK standards)? Or do we go by the (probable) location of the individual concerned? Also, how are we going to know they're deceased -- take the word of the OP? I don't have any answers on much of this, myself. – user104 May 15 '13 at 12:03
  • It's interesting UK standard is 100 years since I got my mother's Scottish birth certificate online from UK gov without even having to identify myself as a relative - and it's only from >70 but < 100 years ago and she's still alive. – Duncan May 16 '13 at 2:42
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    As I understand it, certificates are publicly available by law, so no time restrictions (especially as their legal purpose is mostly to provide info about living people or the recently deceased), but censuses, hospital records etc are subject to 100 year closure, and information from other sources (such as the 1939 Identity Card census) is only disclosed with information about people who are still living redacted. – user104 May 16 '13 at 7:00

Well, we shouldn't be a tracing service.

I think whether or not the person is alive is a good criteria.

If the questioner does not know if the person is alive or not, then you can decide on a rule like you suggested.

The bigger problem that I see is that even though you edited the question, the previous edited version is still viewable. You might have to actually delete questions that don't hide the fact that they contain info about known living people.

  • True, but even deleted questions are visible to high-rep users. – user104 May 14 '13 at 7:10
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    I've got the higher powers to nuke the previous versions of question and answer. – user104 May 14 '13 at 12:06

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