Just under three years ago I started researching genealogy as a hobby. My girlfriend suggested Geni.com, and I signed up without knowing much about it. I kind of liked it at first, and even paid for a year’s worth of
Geni Pro rather than their free service.
What Geni is trying to do is create one family tree for the entire world. I like that goal.
I don’t like how they’ve gone about it.
The way it worked when I joined was you entered people and information about them, and you became the manager of a profile for them. If you wished, you could merge that profile with a profile for the same person entered by another user. Then the two of you could collaborate on research about that person, jointly managing the profile. Any relative within 4 generations could be designated private, so that other users couldn’t see the information and it isn’t crawled by Google. This allows people to add close, living relatives to their family tree but keep their life details private.
Then a couple years ago, Geni changed policy. If the profile was for a person more than 4 generations back in time (i.e., your great grandparents or earlier in the tree), any Geni Pro user could edit them. This is a huge issue because there are a lot of really sloppy genealogists. I’ve no problem with sloppy research, but when it affects my research, I get cranky. I stopped using Geni for the most part, though I kept my account and periodically edited a profile or two.
Another aspect of Geni is that they have a class of users called
curators. Curators are uber-users. They can manage popular profiles (e.g., Queen Elizabeth, Charlemagne) preventing sloppy genealogy work being done on them. They can approve merges made between abandoned profiles. Those are good things, mostly.
But recently, though I’m not sure when, Geni decided that curators should have unfettered access to private profiles. In other words, random genealogists have access to the private information about living people. Presumably the curators are now the unpaid customer service representatives. This is a huge problem!.
Also, those curators can approve merges and edits for private profiles. I had a first cousin entered, and so did someone else. A curator came along and saw that the information matched and merged the two profiles without the permission of either myself or the other person who had entered my cousin. So now that person can see a whole lot of private information I’ve entered where the 4 generations for both of us intersect. What does it matter, you’d think? They’re probably family. Except there was a divorce and I didn’t know the details. Now I can see some of that. And the other person can see similar pieces of information.
Allowing some random curator to decide on their own to make changes to private profiles, including merges, was the final straw. I sent an angry email to Geni and got back a really condescending response that I should ask the sloppy curator for help in fixing the mess that person caused. I replied back that I would do no such thing, that I wanted it back the way it was prior without me having to ask someone nicely. And then I got back another even more condescending response that I didn’t want to work on a collaborative site.
I never replied again. Had I, I would have pointed out that collaboration does not mean what that C.S.R. thought it meant. It does not mean making changes without telling other people affected. Working together means talking and discussing changes, none of which Geni’s designated curator did. Not to mention they shouldn’t have even been able to see private information in the first place.
I spent the next evening removing as much information as I could from Geni. I know they have logs of all the past information, so it’s futile if they decide to become even more evil than they already are. Rest assured Geni when you read this, if you restore that private information and/or make it available to anyone and I find out about it, I will sue. I don’t put it past them. The company has continually decided to make yet more information available to yet more people when people who entered that information did not expect it.
I will never put new information on Geni again. If you care about your family’s privacy, you won’t either.