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December 30, 2008

Is Geni.com Safe For Personal Information?

Last week my Auntie SanSan sent an email to Hefita introducing her to a genealogy project she was working on. She had entered some family data for my side of the family and was inviting Hefita to add information about the her relations. Auntie SanSan was using a site called Geni.com that is a Web 2.0 alternative to Ancestry.com and the like. It has a nice flash based interface and it includes social networking aspects that have been missing from the other big players. You can organize family gatherings, send virtual gifts, etc. The interface is easy to use and if you want to spend the time, you can put together a fairly comprehensive family tree. So Hefita invited some family members to join and contribute. While we did not think twice about adding information it became fairly clear that others were having some reservations about using Geni.com to put names, addresses, birth dates, maiden names, etc. Hmmm these are all good points. So unless the site was going to steal the information, what exactly is the business model. I decided to do some digging.

So the site's terms and conditions clearly state that they are interested in securing your personal information but they also state that they are not responsible if it is compromised. Hmmm... this is troubling. They "try" to secure the site and protect your information, but if it gets out, they aren't responsible. I'm not feeling warm and fuzzy. I do personally know some of the people involved in the project and I'm sure they aren't leaving huge holes in the system. Some of them were involved in PayPal and they haven't been hacked (but have been phished).

So the bottom line is this. If you are super paranoid, don't put anything on the net that you want compromised. Period. Otherwise only give information to sites you trust and limit the type of information to the strength of their conviction in protecting it.

Do you still feel safe with all that online banking and those purchases at Amazon.com? :-) Kind of makes you go hmmmm....

Posted by Hefe at December 30, 2008 12:41 PM

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