Privacy Issues with Online Trees

Avotaynu Online has published my recent lecture on Privacy Issues with Online Trees that I gave on July 7, 2015 at the 35th Annual Conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in Jerusalem.  The summary of my article’s findings are:

  • Deceased individuals do not have a right to privacy, so publication of genealogical data about deceased individuals is unrestricted.
  • There is generally no legal limitation on the publication of genealogical data about living individuals, since that data is neither private nor objectionable to a reasonable person.
  • Living individuals may have a right against public disclosure of private facts that would be offensive or objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.
  • Online genealogy sites may restrict publication of genealogical data about living individuals, but solely as a result of marketing decisions and not because of any legal requirements or risks of liability or litigation.
  • Subject to the rule against public disclosure of objectionable private facts, genealogists are generally free to publish online family trees, and do not need to accede to privacy requests from individuals named on those trees.



Stolen Mahler photo offered on ebay for $150,000

A few weeks ago I contacted Cliff Fraser and offered to resolve the issue of the stolen Mahler photo by purchasing it for $20,000.  He countered by demanding $120,000 and I decided not to pursue it further.  There is still no reason to think the photo wasn’t stolen from our home in Brentwood or loaned somewhere by my grandmother and never returned after she died of cancer in 1967.  (Just this year the Edinburgh Festival returned a bunch of photos and a diagram for Gurrelieder that were loaned in 1961.)

Now Cliff has decided to try to the sell the photo on ebay.  It looks like he is being assisted by someone with the listing, because in previous correspondence he has been less than articulate.  The listing was picked up by Norman Lebrecht on Slipped Disc, who then also reported that the photo appears to have been stolen.  If no one purchases it, maybe Cliff will come to his senses and at least accept my generous offer of a reasonable price for the return of the photo.  Unfortunately, to date he has been acting more like the original thief than simply the grandson who found the stolen photo buried in his grandmother’s boiler room.