Online privacy is becoming harder and harder to wrangle. Remember Spokeo? Well, recently there’s been a ton of buzz about a newish site called Family Tree Now. It’s been around for a couple years, but within the last 24 hours I have heard everyone from my tech-averse baseball-mom neighbor to goofy morning radio hosts, even the Washington Post warning about the amount of personal info that is shared on this site.
We took a closer look and whoa, they weren’t kidding. You’ll definitely want to check to see if your info is there, and opt out if you so choose.
What is Family Tree Now?
At face value, Family Tree Now is a free genealogy site, but honestly, the family-tree services are very basic. It’s the pertinent public records it pulls when you search your name that are extensive, and well, freaky. A quick search using my nickname (not even my legal name) showed birthdates for 11 relatives and another 7 possible associations, including my sister’s ex-husband and his mother, and a few random names I’ve never heard of before. (Hey, Bjay Bloomer! Nice to be associated with you.)
Sure, other sites also use search engines to pull public records too (most notably, Spokeo). But, as the Washington Post points out, Family Tree Now’s access to this information all in one place, for free, without even having to sign in is just a little too easy. And it’s a bit creepy — especially that “possible associations part” — because you don’t want your current address to pop up when your ex’s new girlfriend searches him, right?
Anyone can access your information without the hinderance (or record keeping) of having to pay a fee or even log in to do a search. You can probably figure out pretty quickly why that would be a problem for a lot of people.
The fact that this site will give anyone any person’s current address, age, relatives, and other info immediately gives anyone all the info they might need to locate, even contact, them.
How to opt out of Family Tree Now
Opting out is fairly simple: just search for your name in the opt out link, click on your record, then click the large red Opt Out box once you’ve verified that it’s actually your record.
But this is key: Be sure you click through all variations of your name and opt out of each one. There were 7 alternate versions of my name, and each one needed to be opted out of separately. By the time I got to the 4th alias, the site timed out and wouldn’t let me delete more. I had to go back later to opt out of the rest.
What to do next
Opting out of this site is just one step in securing your online privacy, but hey, it still helps! After you opt out here, do a search for yourself, your kids, your phone number and other personal data on Google to see where else your personal info shows up. Opt out anytime you can.
Staying vigilant about online privacy is simply a reality of living in the digital era. Creating good habits, like adding a reminder to your calendar once a month search yourself on Google, will make it more manageable, and it makes your family safer.