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To publish or not publish information about living persons

privacy security legality

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#1 forty-two



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Posted 15 September 2016 - 09:06 AM

I'm looking for guidance to help our reunion committee, with respect to publishing a history and genealogy that includes 10,000 people. The book will be published in both a printed and digital form, and sold at a price that covers our costs. We could donate copies to certain archives, libraries, and museums.


I think it's insensitive, unethical and possibly illegal to publish birth dates, birth locations, marriage dates, and marriage locations of our living cousins without expressed consent from each individual. Informed consent from young children is impossible. Not everyone on our committee agrees with me.


We're in Canada, and our book would mainly include living cousins in Canada and the US. In Canada, from a legal perspective, I'm concerned about federal and provincial P.I.P.E.D. Acts as well as the possibility of civil litigation for publishing personal information without consent. Of course, I'm also concerned about good etiquette and respect for the privacy and security of our cousins. 


This morning I found a post on another RM forum that says "As genealogists we know your name, date of birth, spouse name and a bunch of other information including mothers maiden name is considered public record." That surprised me and I wonder if it's true in Canada and the US. This might deflate my argument in favour of privatizing before publishing. 


Can anyone suggest links where I can find reliable information about our legal responsibilities to protect birth and marriage information?


I also welcome your own thoughts about the ethics of listing birthdates and marriage dates in our book without permission of each person listed.

#2 TomH


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Posted 15 September 2016 - 11:29 AM

This topic will be rapidly closed because it is not a RootsMagic question. I would say that it is a sensitive matter to which there is no easy answer. The safe one is to suppress the publication of any info about living persons. The argument that information that is in the public record may be freely disseminated has some merit but is not an absolute. And it is my impression that there is more available from US Federal and some States than there is from Canadian and Provincial records. My local genealogical society, unaffiliated with any larger org, went through contortions a couple of years ago with the Canadian Privacy Act because of the concerns of one of its members who had been webmaster for a school board. I don't know if we are immune from civil action because of what we have members sign on their membership registration but it's a balancing act between being cavalier about it and being paralysed by it. I would suggest you seek advice from the Ontario Genealogical Society because you are publishing in Canada. If you are distributing/publishing in USA, then one of the major ones there. 

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