FamilyTreeNow Website Has Internet 'Freaking Out': Social Media Draws Attention To Privacy Concerns Over Public Information

The FamilyTreeNow website has the internet "freaking out," according to Business Insider. FamilyTreeNow is a free genealogy website, boasting "one of the largest collections of genealogy records anywhere." Although not the most popular genealogy website, FamilyTreeNow recently became more well-known thanks to social media.

Several Facebook posts this month have drawn attention to FamilyTreeNow as a dangerous website that offers up way too much readily-available personal information. With only a name and a location, users of FamilyTreeNow can do a quick online search and bring up what's being called "unnerving" and "creepy" personal details.

While most of the online community is now rattled by how easy it is for anyone to find personal information on anyone else, others say "it's nothing new," and all of the information provided by FamilyTreeNow is already readily available in public records.

FamilyTreeNow search results bring up full names, birthdates, possible relatives, and possible associates, as well as past and present addresses for living people, with the disclaimer that it's all from public records. So, what is all the fuss about?

The Atlantic recently published an article about FamilyTreeNow, stating that it's an unregulated site with few safeguards and an easy-to-use interface, adding that FamilyTreeNow "makes stalking easy." The alleged dangers of FamilyTreeNow quickly went viral on social media after Twitter user Anna Brittain sent out an urgent online safety tweet on January 10, telling followers to opt out of FamilyTreeNow, adding that only a name and a city is needed to pull up a string of delicate personal information -- allegedly dating back as far as 10 years.

But even before Anna Brittain's series of tweets, Facebook had already picked up on the potential privacy dangers of using FamilyTreeNow. Facebook groups, in particular, started circulating warnings about FamilyTreeNow a couple of days earlier. One unidentified Facebook user shared on January 8 about "stumbling across" FamilyTreeNow, only to discover that the site displays private information for anyone to access.

Image of a Facebook post warning about the dangers of FamilyTreeNow

According to Fortune, FamilyTreeNow has been around since 2015, but only recently soared into public attention through social media. Some social media users say that "it's not okay" for FamilyTreeNow to publicly display accurate personal information on anyone with just a simple search. Others accuse FamilyTreeNow of "doxxing everyone," meaning to publish identifying information on the internet with malicious internet.

But some FamilyTreeNow information isn't so accurate, especially for women who are searched using a married name rather than a maiden name. According to the Washington Post, there are several other similar search sites out there, adding that the information provided on FamilyTreeNow is made legally available from public records. However, the Washington Post added that it is unusual for FamilyTreeNow to not require a fee or at least an account creation before providing anyone access to such detailed profiles.

FamilyTreeNow is meant only for genealogy use and starting a family tree, but it could also allegedly be used by anyone wanting to steal someone's identity, stalk, harass, or even cause physical harm to someone else, which is reportedly why the internet is "freaking out."

News 10 shared how anyone can opt out of being publicly displayed on FamilyTreeNow by visiting the site's opt-out page and following four steps, adding that it could take up to 48 hours for an opt-out request to be processed.

The owner and founder of FamilyTreeNow, Dustin Weirich, has also allegedly opted-out of his own website after privacy concerns about FamilyTreeNow went viral on social media.

An article published on Hongkiat says it's "quite impossible" to completely delete yourself from the internet, but it is possible to reduce visibility of your data online.

The Telegraph recently shared one online service that can help "delete your online presence with just a few clicks," a common concern for internet users these days, mainly due to the recent and "endless" stories about hacking, cyber attacks, fake news, and freely sharing of personal information through sites like FamilyTreeNow.

[Featured Image by IVASHstudio/Shutterstock]