Creepy Family Tree of Fear or Useful Genealogy Website?

There is a new "genealogy" website that is causing a great deal of controversy, FamilyTreeNow.com.  While this free website claims to "have one of the largest collections of genealogy records anywhere" it is not your ordinary genealogy website. What FamilyTreeNow has done is to gather from public records and other legally available sources data on your and your family and make it available to anyone who want to find it. This information may include age, birth month, addresses (both past and present), family members, "associates", and phone number and makes this information on you available to anyone for free. This means that your personal information is out there for anyone to look up including people who want to steal your identity, stalkers, ex-partners, and others. The website appears to be supported by ads but there were not very many seen.

I did a search on FamilyTreeNow for my four grandparents and it returned no information at all. So much for the claim of genealogy information.

Then I searched for my name and found it listed my age, birth year, wife's name and all the addresses I lived at over the last 25 years. It did not list my children and I did not recognize any of the "possible associates." Next I did a search for my former wife. While it did not associate my name with hers, it did list her other (married) names, and a list of relatives that included her other husbands, children, and some of her siblings.

Finally, I did a search for an uncle who passed away in 2005. This search provided an accurate list of addresses including one for his oldest son. In the list of possible relatives were all of his children and some of his grandchildren. While this information might be useful to genealogists, it would also be useful to others that wanted this information for malicious purposes.

The Washington Post has written an article on FamilyTreeNow and called it creepy saying: ". . . the site is also extremely useful to those who might want to harass or physically harm someone else — and that, it seems, is what is freaking a lot of people out about it.".  They are warning people to opt-out of having their information public. 

Snopes.com, a fact checking website, addresses the claim that this is a website that also allows criminals to look up the personal information of police officers and finds this claim "Mostly True." Snopes goes on to state that while "the website is not intended to specifically target police officers; it can be used by anyone to look up anyone else's information." A popular Facebook group for law enforcement officers, Survive the Streets, has issued an Officer Safety Alert warning all officers to opt out so their information is not on FamilyTreeNow.

While FamilyTreeNow does allow you to "Start Your Family Tree" I suspect they would use that to enhance their data on your and your family. If you would like to opt out and remove your name from being easily searched, you can do so at http://www.familytreenow.com/optout.

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