A quick Google sesh can reveal a lot of private information about a person, but rarely as much, as easily and as free as FamilyTreeNow. In fact, so much personal information about a person is revealed with a single search that a link to the geneology research aid's opt-out page is showing up in all your media feeds.
But unlike other links you're always ignoring, this one is worth clicking on.
The tweet (and retweets) that brought this to everyone's attention came from Anna Brittain, whose sister stumbled across the site and made the personal info discovery. Brittain is a social worker, which can sometimes be a dangerous job. With her address and kids' names, the easily accessible information made her vulnerable.
The gist: The site makes it too easy to find information about you, your kids and where you all live.
Profiles on the site include age, month of birth, names of family members, addresses associated with you and your phone numbers (if they have them). The site also returns results on "possible associates." All these results are on pages that are publicly accessible, at no charge and on perma-linkable pages.
'There’s a lot more work you’d have to do to get control of your personal information on the Internet'
What makes this site such a concern is that you don't have to do anything to go looking: no registration, no logins, no credit card numbers, no subscriptions. There are a ton of sites out there that aggregate personal data—Spokeo, Lexis Nexis, Ancestry—but none make it this easy, open and shareable.
The good news is you can opt out. The Washington Post's Abby Ohlheiser went through the steps to remove herself. While the site says it can take up to 48 hours to remove the listing, Ohlheiser said her information was gone within an hour. There may also be a limit on the number of opt-outs the site can process in a day, as some people found they weren't able to. It's unclear whether removal means from their records or just blocked from public access.
Anyone working in advocacy, politics, public safety (police officers, attorneys, judges), or who is particularly active on social media where trolls love to play, should consider opting out. If you have kids, you may want to head over and find out just what they know.
To opt out, go to this link and follow the directions. They're straightforward and simple. Then tell your friend to do it, too.
Ohlheiser points out that all the Tweeting and opting out of FamilyTreeNow is a good reminder that part of a healthy internet life is conducting occasional privacy checkups. She includes links to another privacy advocate's research of all personal data aggregators, only about half of which have ways to opt out.
"There’s a lot more work you’d have to do to get control of your personal information on the Internet," she writes.