Free genealogy website may reveal living people’s personal information

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SALT LAKE CITY — A website offering free genealogical information could reveal personal details, such as the names of your family members, your age, the names of people you may associate with and even your home address.

"Seeing all that information about me in one spot at one time was very scary," said Andrew Hacker, a cyber security expert at Harrisburg University.

While the amount of information available on familytreenow.com may be uncomfortable, Hacker says it's legal. He suspects some data comes from the kinds of records kept at county court houses. Other information may have been acquired through companies that buy and sell consumer information.

The website's privacy policy states it collects information from trusted third parties without naming them. Family Tree Now also claims to gather information when users interact with features on the website.

Fox 13's request for contact with the owner of the website has gone unanswered.

Fox 13 asked Salt Lake City based Legacy Tree for their take on the website. Legacy Tree is a company whose genealogists use a wide variety of physical and online resources in providing detailed genealogy research for private clients.

"Is it a genealogy website? Yes", said Paul Woodbury of Legacy Tree, adding "it provides genealogical information. But it is deceiving in that the first thing it is providing is information on living people."

While genealogy typically focuses on past generations, there are occasions where information on the living is called for, says Woodbury.

"That could be very helpful in situations like probate and forensic genealogy research," he said.

For example, Woodbury has been hired to find living family members of American soldiers whose remains have been found overseas.

Woodbury says there are other genealogy sites that offer information on the living, but with the exception of Family Tree Now, they require subscriptions, user agreements, or even credentials to access information.

If you’d like to have your information removed from the site, there is an opt out feature at this link.