I wrote a shorter version of this for the FFHS September 2012 Ezine:
Would you be annoyed to discover your family tree had been published on an unfamiliar website without your permission? The Lost Cousins newsletter reports how one such reader found her family tree on such a website. Many of us have put our family history research online without reading the small print. Perhaps you are not aware that many companies’ terms and conditions allow them the right to use your research and even “copy, publish, distribute” – how they wish. This also includes “private trees”.
Another aspect of this is, do you know who you are sharing your information with? Early on when I first started my family history research I put some of my family tree online. I thought I was careful who I allowed access to my tree but then started finding my personal details and those of my close family on complete strangers’ trees. This information was passed on by someone who I had allowed to view my tree, she then took this information and gives it to anyone who asks! Despite asking for these personal details to be removed, they weren’t and even years afterwards, I come across someone who has this information. Recently someone emailed a family member and they had all of my details and those of my close family. This researcher wasn’t even researching my family name! I hadn’t given her these details but she had got them from someone else. All of this originated from me putting details of my tree online many years ago. I love sharing my research with people but I never disclose details of living members. Today, personal information can be used in many ways and not always in a good way. Please think before giving away your personal details and ask before you give others’ personal information out. Also, before you decide whether to put your family tree online make sure you read the website’s terms and conditions thoroughly and if you don’t agree with them, don’t give them your research!