Genealogy site raises concerns about easy access to personal information


(WSPA) – A new genealogy website is sparking controversy because of all the information it collects about you. What’s most concerning is not just what the site knows, but how easily anyone can access it, all for free.

You may have never heard of FamilyTreeNow.com, but if you search your name, you’re bound to see, it sure knows a lot about you.

“It’s kind of scary, it has everywhere I’ve ever lived, even a guy I dated in high school, it has his information and his family’s information,” said Marcie Kelley in Greenville.

It also has your full name, age, birthday and links to a number of people associated with you. That’s something Laura Nance in Greenville worries is fuel for scammers.

“What better way than to threaten your family,” said Nance.

Still, Joel Armistead, who volunteers for the genealogy department with the Greenville County Library System, is quick to point out, the information is already out there.

“I’m not overly alarmed about what I’m seeing here because I’m well aware that these public records are already there,” he said.

And yet, for some, the issue is that unlike Spokeo, Intelius, Lexus Nexis and similar sites that compile and sell dossiers on you, FamilyTreeNow does it for free.

“I feel very violated, yeah (laugh), I feel very awkward,” said Kelley.

There is a way to opt out. When you do, you’ll still see a listing with your name, but you won’t be able to click on it for more details.

Also beware, many links will take you off-site and charge you. If you really want a free genealogy experience, go to the library.

“The library system actually pays for a license so that if you’re a card holder you can access the Library version of Ancestry.com for free,” said Brian Morrison with the Greenville County Library System.

One of the biggest reported complaints against FamilyTreeNow is that some files even include children’s names, which is why Armistead never tags his grandkids on social media.

“I am sort of relieved that I don’t see their names appearing here with their data because I think that would be a concern to me,” said Armistead.

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