Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Privacy and the FamilySearch Memories

Posting photos and stories online is an extremely valuable adjunct to the bare bones of information contained in a family tree. As many people try to inaccurately point out, genealogy is a names and dates and "family history"is much more. Actually, genealogy is much more than names and dates and always has been. The reaction against doing "genealogy" is a cultural manifestation of an attitude that has developed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the past 100 years or so.

But putting all that aside, the activity of adding millions of photos and stories to the Memories section involves some considerations of privacy. As I express in my post entitled, "Privacy and life online -- A Genealogist's Viewpoint," The concept of "privacy" is very complex. It is currently a concept that is the basis for continued controversy on a national and local level. Some of the most complex legislation and Federal rules are directed at preserving some limited aspects of "privacy." The program is designed to create a "private space" around every living person in the program. Anything entered into that private space cannot be viewed by anyone else.

But as we are finding out, there are definite limits to the concept of privacy. First of all, dead people do not have any privacy. Privacy, in whatever form you want to believe it exists, only applies to living people.

The basic information in a family tree does not intrude on anyone's privacy. There is nothing in the information about births, deaths and marriages that is not very public information. Where privacy concerns do become important is when we get into the area of photographs and stories. The Memories section of is directed at sharing exactly these types of documents. The information in the Memories section is "open to the public" and can be discovered with a Google search. However, that is not true for untagged photos or stories or for photos of living people. The basic concept here is that if you don't want something broadcast to the world, do not put it online.

However, there is one interesting issue about putting photos online. If you put up a photo depicting several people, some dead and some living, and then you tag the dead people, the entire photo is discoverable online and of course, the living people are seen in the photo. If you would like more information about the Private Space on and the Memories section issues, see the following list of links:

Here is a quote from the Adding Photos link above,
You can add memory items for a living person to Family Tree. However, you should be aware of local privacy laws and obtain permission from any living person before posting the item in Memories.
  • Go to the Person page, and click the Memories tab to add a photo, document, story, or audio file.
  • In Memories, linking a living person to his or her memories can only be done by ID. The Find search function does not look for living persons.
  • Tags are linked to ID numbers, not people by name. You will only be able to see items linked to the living person you created in your private spaces or those you have the rights to see.
  • Notes: Living and confidential people are managed in a private space. Only you will be able to see and modify this person. However, anyone could potentially see the photos, documents, stories, or audio files that are attached to this person. For more details and information regarding Private Spaces, please see Understanding Private Spaces (98224).

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