If you’re a stickler for checking your Facebook privacy settings and keeping your digital footprint small, you'll probably want to learn how to opt out of FamilyTreeNow.com. The public information aggregator has been going viral recently; the service can bring up a sizable amount of your personal information free of charge, and the quick and easy nature of the searches has many in the online community worried about safety. The site, which markets itself as a free genealogy resource, allows users to look up any person by first and last name — no sign-up or registration required. It's understandable that you might want to opt out of a simple search that can reveal your age, year of birth, “associates” and immediate family members, and current and past addresses.
As The Washington Post states, all the information on FamilyTreeNow.com comes largely from public records, so there's nothing inherently nefarious about the site. However, in the age of internet trolls and increasing online harassment, many are worried that the information from these detailed public profiles could be used to target individuals such as women, minority groups, police officers, and public figures. Young adult author Anna Brittain alerted social media to the unsettling nature of the site on Tuesday, Jan. 10., and it has also received mentions on some law enforcement officer safety Facebook pages.
When I ran a search of myself, the only information listed in my profile was my name, birth year and age. Somewhat bizarrely, though, my sophomore year college dorm address was listed as my current residence. But while my profile was relatively empty, I got something of a shock when I typed a family member's name into the search. Not only did the site list her age and birth year, but also every address where she had lived (including where I had grown up) as well as an accurate current address. A section titled “possible relatives” listed all her living relatives — including me and my sibling. I immediately called my mom and walked her through how to opt out.
If you too are concerned about having personal information so easily accessible, definitely take a moment and follow these quick steps on how to opt out of the search.