The subject of genealogy by necessity deals with sensitive and personal information. I may be bringing up a topic before anything happens but once we get out of beta the chances of sensitive information being posted here will grow.

What should we do if we see someone posting a SSN, license numbers, etc. Names and locations are fine in my opinion but the more sensitive information, should it be removed? Edited away with a [removed] or some such place holder?

When removing the information would still be visible in the edit logs, so does it matter?

  • I've asked something similar at meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/65/… - but more related to those looking for such personal information (and whether we should have a rule in place, before it happens). You mention "names and locations" are fine in your opinion, but I'd disagree with that - there should be nothing to identify potentially living people, at all.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 3:29
  • @RobHoare - I think taking such a hard line will make the site much less useful. The only reason I brought up the topic was identity theft concerns. Names, Locations, Dates, etc. can all be found elsewhere on the web. Given the topic of this site some personal information may be required and should be up to the poster's discretion as to post it or not.
    – Justin808
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 3:44
  • certainly a poster could post as much of their own information as they want. But the privacy laws in many countries (most relevant to this group: Canada, UK, Australia) do restrict what can be published about others without their permission. Identity theft is a problem everywhere, but outside the US identifying numbers (SIN, NI, TFN) are not always required for credit - just a name and birthdate (and the address is then easy to find). What is public in the US may not be acceptable as being public in other countries (and v.v. - Sweden and others publish tax returns online!).
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 4:41
  • How would you know that data such as a phone no., address, SSN, etc., were real and not simply some invented ones for the purpose of illustration? I realise that the context of the post will indicate this in most cases, but maybe not all.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


These posts should be flagged for moderator attention, using the "it needs ♦ moderator attention" > other" option. Let the moderator know that there is sensitive personal information included in a post and that the information should be removed.

You can also edit it out, to minimize the damage and limit the number of eyes that see the data, but the information may still visible in the revision history. If a moderator feels that the information is of a sensitive personal nature, he or she may contact the community management team and have the information deleted from the revision history.

If at all possible, people shouldn't post any sensitive information, at all... If the question can't be answered without posting sensitive data, then the post may not be helpful to future visitors and probably isn't a good fit for our site. The goal of Genealogy SE is to become a resource of knowledge to help not only the original poster but also the thousands of visitors who will view that question and it's answers for the years to come.


I basically copying my answer from https://genealogy.meta.stackexchange.com/a/95/35 as the questions are about the same thing...

Based on some comments I've read and thinking about it more I'm going to say that we should not have a policy any people or what information can and can not be said. This should be left up the the posters discretion.

My main reason for this is that each country has different items that are considered sensitive. Having a massive list of whats not aloud for each country would be unwieldily and most people wouldn't look through it before posting anyway. The person posting the question from whatever country should know best.

I don't think we can outright ban personal information at all from the site either as it would make asking questions exceedingly difficult if not impossible. When viewing a question and seeing a SSN number I'm going to assume the person posting knows what he or she is doing and that SSN is for a deceased individual where the SSN in already listed publicly. If its obvious that the person is still alive or recently deceased a comment regarding the wrongness and the potential consequences of identity theft can be made.

If I see a Tax ID from other countries I have no idea if its sensitive or not, same with any other information being posted.

My vote is not to have any policy other than "Be careful what you post" same as any other forum, blog, social site, etc. on the internet.

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