GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – A genealogy website that makes personal information easily accessible at no cost has come under public scrutiny after a report from The Washington Post.
FamilyTreeNow.com claims to have one of the largest collections of genealogy records, which contains individual information from public records. The website says it’s 100% free to search.
“But in reality, they have nothing to do with building your family tree,” said Mark Lanterman, the Chief Technology Officer of Computer Forensic Services in Minnetonka.
Lanterman says many ancestry sites masquerade for personal information, motivated by profit.
Without a dime, subscription or account on FamilyTreeNow you can find someone's age, birth month, family members, addresses, even phone numbers.
“If you are victim of domestic violence, and think you are safe, maybe you are not as safe as you thought. If you are a high profile person and you wish to have admirers who wish to do you harm, now they know whose door to knock on,” said Lanterman. “I do see this as a public safety issue.”
Lanterman adds there is no opt-in to the site.
“We are not asked, can we publish this information? Can we collect this information? We kind of have no say in it,” he said.
The site's opt out process takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete, and FamilyTreeNow notifies consumers it will take another 48 hours to process. In Lanterman's view, even that is troublesome too.
“If you go back and check three months from now, you are back in,” said Lanterman.
The Washington Post reports multiple attempts to contact FamilyTreeNow.com’s founder but has not received any comment.