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Should we reduce our privacy rule from a firm 100 year rule to something a little bit more flexible without becoming too complex to manage (such as maybe a 75 year rule)?

Any if so to how would you define it in no more than 1-3 SHORT bullet points that are each no more than 1-2 lines?

Our existing policy in help is:

Please note: You must not include here in any circumstances information (including name, date and place of birth or any other details) that would allow identification of any living (or possibly) living individual by somebody reading this site. In practice, this means details about anyone born in the last 100 years, whether they are believed to be deceased or not, and whether or not they have given their permission.

How to ask questions about ancestors born less than 100 years ago Our privacy policy is designed to prevent "identification of any living (or possibly living) individual by somebody reading this site" and is not intended to prevent you asking questions that may relate to someone born during the past 100 years. However, to ask such questions we ask you to proceed cautiously.

If you already know that your relative was born more than 100 years ago, simply by stating that means that the privacy policy will not apply so that you can provide details freely. Including the name, date and place of birth, etc is fine and usually very helpful. If you already know (or suspect) that your ancestor was born less than 100 years ago, and you know that they are dead, then you may include identification details such as name, date and place of birth, etc., but you must also provide evidence to us that they are dead. If you know (or suspect) that your ancestor is still alive, then under no circumstances should such identification details be included. Acceptable evidence of death needs to come from some official or semi-official source such as an entry on a death-registration / grave / cemetery / obituary site. A website link (URL) should be provided wherever possible. Regrettably personal recollection is not sufficient to show that we have done our best to protect people's privacy.

If you are in any doubt as to whether your evidence of death would stand up, then hold back the identifying details, and describe the type of evidence so that other users can help you assess it via comments.

The figure of 100 years has been chosen as a "best-fit" with policies across the globe.

Part of the reason is I think while respecting privacy we deter people with legitimate questions from participating as well as make questions very difficult to answer when personal information is redacted. We also broadly assume people are alive if born in the last 100 years even though they may be long deceased.

Some things to consider to put out there, but not taking a particular position in the question itself.

  • Blogger Dick Eastman's Quote:
    • " In the U.S. and Canada, there is no restriction on publishing dates and places of birth, marriage, and similar facts online. Such facts are considered to be public domain, not private. Publishing such information is not an invasion of privacy in North America nor in most other English-speaking countries. However, European countries have a number of such restrictions."
    • "In short, genealogists shouldn't worry much about privacy laws but perhaps should be guided by common sense and respect for their families' preferences."
  • A lot of information is publicly available via Ancestry.com, Social Security Death Index, WhitePages.com, FindAGrave.com, etc that we will effectively kill a question for referencing a potentially live person in the 100 year timeframe today.
  • The timeframes in many states is much less than 100 years for most things other than a birth certificate. -In some states like Illinois it is only 75 years for a birth certificate.
    • In some US states anyone can request a death certificate for anyone that is deceased, even recently.
  • Some countries publish tax returns for everyone with a lot of information and where someone lives or in the US is generally a matter of public record.
  • A lot of people are just starting and what they have to work with is the 100 year timeframe.
  • The National Genealogical Society doesn't have a specific guideline that I can find.
  • Some countries have 100 year.
  • I did not immediately find anything in Board Certified Genealogist on specific timeframes; just guidelines for privacy.
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I would prefer to keep the born-100-years-ago rule in place. This is in line with many privacy policies, both in the USA and in other countries -- that is why it was agreed upon when the site was first created. All the reasons which were argued in favor of that choice are still true now. If anything, rules in the USA have become more restrictive since the site's creation, not less.

It's also very simple to tell at a glance whether a person's centennial has passed or not.

About this argument:

I think too often we tend to jump to edit out names just because there is a faint possibility they are still alive. This is off-putting to new users, who may be starting out their genealogy research (probably in the twentieth century).

I say use 100 years as a rule of thumb to think, 'this person could still be alive'. But let's take a more moderate approach before jumping in to edit out names and details that might be fundamental to the question being asked.

I think it's important to show new users that there is more to genealogy than plugging names and dates into a search engine and seeing what results come up. Having a specific name and date and place is the best case if you want to do a specific search, but is it necessary to have a name, in order to demonstrate a research method?

What is going to be most useful to everyone in the long run -- to write answers to individual questions that aid only the person who wrote the question, or to write answers that helps someone learn a new skill, which they can apply to all their research in the future?

Especially now, when the marketing people at the big companies are keen to tell newcomers to genealogy that "all you have to do is plug in a name", someone needs to tell newcomers that they are capable of doing more than filling in a blank on a search form. We aren't doing newcomers any favors by insisting we can't help them unless they give us a specific person's name. As long as we have the other two legs of the three-legged stool -- the time frame and location -- we should be able to point them in the right direction so they can answer the question for themselves.

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I think that any discussion of modifying our Privacy Policy should focus on separating two issues:

  1. Is 100 years after a persons death an appropriate time to assume that the large majority of people are now deceased?
  2. For anyone who cannot be thus assumed to be deceased, how can this site be duly diligent in ensuring that they are, before using identifying details such as name and date of birth, in Q&As here?

In the meantime, I think we should continue with our current Privacy Policy which is proving easy to interpret and is in line with this answer to Why must we be careful in referring to living people? and with the previous discussion at How much detail should be included in questions about WW1 and WW2 service members? and the earlier discussion at Seeking possibly-living individuals - clarity required

Without doubt our Privacy Policy can be off putting to those asking the questions that fall on the "wrong" side of it, so perhaps we all just need to spend more time trying to assist them to work around it by generalizing their questions, finding proof of decease that they can use (NOT uploading death certificates), etc.

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I think 100 years is fine as a rule of thumb. The US is an anomaly in that records tend to be closed for 70 something years, in my experience most of the rest of the world seems to use 100 years as a rule.

I do have a problem with this part of the policy:

If you already know (or suspect) that your ancestor was born less than 100 years ago, and you know that they are dead, then you may include identification details such as name, date and place of birth, etc., but you must also provide evidence to us that they are dead... Acceptable evidence of death needs to come from some official or semi-official source such as an entry on a death-registration / grave / cemetery / obituary site. A website link (URL) should be provided wherever possible. Regrettably personal recollection is not sufficient to show that we have done our best to protect people's privacy.

I don't think it is reasonable for a user to upload their parent's death certificate to ask a question about them (that may be the only "evidence" they have). I think we can be a bit more forgiving without breaching anyone's privacy. If the OP says that they know a person is deceased, they shouldn't have to provide "proof". If they don't know if a person is deceased, then yes the name should be removed.

If a post obviously contains details of living people, a moderator should remove the names.

If a post may contain details of living people, but it is unclear:

  • normal users or moderators may comment to enquire whether the individual in question is still living
  • if after a reasonable amount of time passes with no response, or if doubt remains, then a moderator may remove the names

I think too often we tend to jump to edit out names just because there is a faint possibility they are still alive. This is off-putting to new users, who may be starting out their genealogy research (probably in the twentieth century).

I say use 100 years as a rule of thumb to think, 'this person could still be alive'. But let's take a more moderate approach before jumping in to edit out names and details that might be fundamental to the question being asked.

-1

I personally would like to see a more practical approach vs. a hard and fast 100 year rule because primarily I think it is off putting and I have seen some decent questions otherwise sunk even though we are talking time frames just short of the 100 year rule.

An example that immediately comes to mind is this question "Tracing child adopted from Washington County, Tennessee Poor Farm in the 1930s?" , which I directed the user from a Facebook group to the group and she posted WAY more information in a public Facebook forum than she posted here and we basically tore down her question to it becoming much more difficult to answer and she has since not been seen again.

Placing the burden of 'proving' to everyone that the person is dead seems far strung and doesn't give the person any benefit of doubt that they have legitimate genealogy interests in mind.

My initial take on the 1-3 bullet criteria is:

  • Referenced individuals by name must have been born at least 75+ years ago, but if under 100 years ago must be accompanied with a a link to a public record showing they are deceased.
  • Clarification of details of public records of potentially living individuals may be asked and linked directly to in questions and refer to the individual in the record by name.
  • Questions may not be asked about locating specific living relatives or potential relatives other than in general questions about , matches and .

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