Happy Data Privacy Day!

by Bradley Jansen January 28th, 2015 12:00 pm

Every year on January 28th since 2007, we celebrate Data Privacy Day (Data Protection Day to our European friends) going back to the start of the  Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data.  The most important and pressing data privacy issue in the United States today is the fight to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The law that governs the privacy protections of your electronic communications (ECPA) such as text messaging, cloud computing, etc., was passed in 1986.  Needless to say, the general consensus is that the law needs updating. The Digital Due Process (DDP) coalition brings together a broad spectrum of groups from the left, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and the right including Americans for Tax Reform, as well as privacy groups, technology companies including Google, Microsoft, HP, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.

Importantly to this blog, I have to point out that the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) representing a more than critical mass of the genealogical community is part of DDP and helping in the fight to update ECPA.  Many of the reasons are spelled out in this letter to US Sen. Orin Hatch.

Yes, the genealogy community is active in the struggle to protect privacy.  For another example, check out Judy Russell's excellent post earlier today on this blog.

So here are some good privacy guidelines for genealogists:

  • Consent matters, as Judy explains.  Which dovetails with the general privacy principle of not sharing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of living people without their consent, and
  • Law enforcement should need a warrant for content (except under well-established exceptions)--the Fourth Amendment should apply to the physical world and the digital one.

The more genealogists work to and respect privacy, the fewer problems we'll have with others wanting to restrict records access.



Privacy at RootsTech

by Bradley Jansen February 2nd, 2014 9:07 pm

As many technologically-oriented genealogists know, the RootsTech conference at Salt Lake City, Utah starts soon.  In fact, this group blog started at RootsTech last year, and we announced it during an "unconferencing session" with Fred Moss of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Jim Dempsey with the Center for Democracy and Technology and myself.

The syllabi for this year's conference are available here.

Looking at the schedule, one will find many issues related to privacy and the related tech issues such as storing and sharing your information online and in the cloud.

Just a reminder that "genealogyland" has joined privacy and technology advocates to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) in the Digital Due Process coalition.  For more information, check out http://digitaldueprocess.org.


Genealogists Support ECPA Petition for Privacy

by Bradley Jansen December 11th, 2013 6:10 pm

The Federation of Genealogical Societies has a new blog post out joining with their colleagues in a large privacy coalition called Digital Due Process (of which this think tank is a member as well).  The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed in 1986 and desperately needs to be updated.  As genealogy has moved from local paper to online digital research with personal information, it's good to see the genealogical community showing needed leadership!


It concludes:

"Today we ask you join us by signing this petition to the White House[http://www.digital4th.org/petition.html]. It’s time for the President to join tech companies, startups, advocates, and Members of Congress by supporting this commonsense, long overdue reform to ensure our privacy rights online.”

Please add your voice by signing the petition!


Benefits of working together: ECPA and SSDI

by Bradley Jansen March 22nd, 2013 2:40 pm

The first endeavors of this project are already bearing fruit.  Personal introductions have been made between many leaders of the privacy, tech and genealogical communities.  Some misperceptions have been challenged--and new ways of understanding disagreements are coming to light.

Many groups have come together on a letter to US Sen. Orin Hatch on the changing of genealogy from papers in local depositories to online and cloud computing collaboration.  This evolution raises lots of issues that we should be addressing together.

Here is the letter many privacy, tech and genealogical organizations jointly signed to Sen. Hatch: