Re: Magazine article
- From: "Q" <quondam1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 11 Aug 2006 21:22:01 -0500
""Roy Stockdill"" <roy.stockdill@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
From: "Q" <quondam1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
It's one thing to enter a living relative's name on a family tree that
is local to your computer, but it's something different if you post it
to a web page. That's why a number of online genealogy search engines
allow submitters to either remove living people from the published
versions of their trees, or to omit their names, referring to them
only as "Living."
I'm sure it's not against the law -- not yet, anyway -- to publish the
name of a living person in one's family tree, but it's a courtesy to
ask permission first.
Any accretion of data about an individual -- even if it's information
that's freely available through press clippings and similar sources
-- becomes a "dossier" and that is the thin edge of the wedge that
makes privacy advocates queasy.>
All of which is specious nonsense.
You cannot possibly argue that if
information on a living person is available in, let's say, 10 differentnot
sources, all of which are entirely in the public domain, then it's OK to
publish each piece of information individually, one at a time, but it's
OK to publish all 10 pieces of information together because putting them
together constitutes a "dossier", even though every single, individual
piece of data is in the public domain in its own right (phew - what a
sentence!). That's a bit like saying you can publish individual moves in a
chess game but you can't publish the entire game, or show part-
completed pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but not the finished work.
There are no consequences to the chess game whether you publish the entire
game or individual moves. It's quite different when you talk about human
Applied to the ultimate degree, this philosophy
Anything is ridiculous if "applied to the ultimate degree."
would make it utterly
impossible for any writer to publish a biography of any living person in
that person's lifetime. If that's the kind of crass censorship you want to
see, then, fine, argue it.
I don't think that it's "crass censorship" to refrain from publishing
material about people who prefer to live below the radar, or to be left
alone, in any case..
But, IIRC, you have already said that a person is "despicable" if he chooses
to post pseudonymously, so perhaps you are not respectful of other people's
privacy in general.
As an ex-books editor, as you know, I haveI
seen more biographies and autobiographies than probably anyone on
this list. I have read the bland, sanitised, lying "official" versions and
have read the unofficial biographies that tell the truth. I know which I
I'm sure you prefer the ones that present the subject in the most
salaciously unflattering light as possible, whether they are accurate or
I preferred it when you called yourself a "literary editor."
In any case, the courts have established different standards for people who
are famous than for people who are not famous. Whether it's fair or not, we
have a license to pry into the lives of famous people that we do not have
for our obscure relatives, neighbors and fellow usenet posters.
Also, some of the material in the unauthorized biographies is speculative,
and quite a lot of it is outright baloney. That's because book publishers
don't have the same fact-checking standards that newspapers do.
Same with family histories. No-one can possibly argue that any data that
is very clearly in the public domain should be suppressed. Otherwise, it
simply makes a hypocritical fiasco of the whole thing.
What exactly do you mean when you write "in the public domain?"
In this country, and possibly also in the UK, it is possible for somebody to
go to your local courthouse and research your criminal record -- and the
criminal records of your children -- your house and how much you paid for
it, and whether it is mortgaged. If you have ever been bankrupt -- for
whatever reason -- that can be added to the "unofficial biography" that some
busybody might want to use as a weapon by putting it online for people to
gawk at . They may phone your employer to find out what position you hold
in your company.
There are also seemingly harmless facts that one might wish to conceal for
employment purposes. In the United States, it is illegal to discriminate
against a prospective employee because of his age (even though for insurance
purposes, it is financially advantageous to do so). Employers are not
supposed to ask the ages of job applicants, but they don't need to ask
because much of that information has been placed online by people who think
as you do. The result is that employers are able to keep their benefits
costs down by making youth the principal yardstick that determines who will
We all know HM Queen Lizzie's family tree back to Charlemagne or
whoever. Are you suggesting this accumulated knowledge, which has
been in the public domain for many centuries, should be suppressed
because she's still living? And if one you get into that area, how is
anyone else's family tree any different?
One's private business is just that: private. There is stuff that is known,
and even more stuff that can be found out, but it's obvious from the
material in the links I included in my previous post that a substantial
number of people don't like their personal details to be posted in a public
place where they may be the subject of the prurient interest -- and
entertainment -- of strangers.
There have been a couple threads on this controversy in alt.genealogy, so it
can hardly be considered unusual or even eccentric for somebody to object
to being included in somebody else's published family tree.
IMO, the ancestry of a living person is fairly benign -- as information
collecting goes --but it can be used to access census information, and
information from obituaries that can open the door to pretty embarrassing
stuff, as you probably know if you did any reporting while you were at
oTW. -- Q
Guild of One-Name Studies: www.one-name.org
Newbies' Guide to Genealogy & Family History:
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about,
and that is not being talked about."
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