Genealogy Site FamilyTreeNow Knows Your Addresses and Family Members

iStock / iStock

If you’re concerned about online security, tweaking the privacy settings of your accounts and being smart about what you post are good places to start. But as one writer recently pointed out, that isn't always enough.

According to The Washington Post, YA author Anna Brittain took to Twitter on January 10 to broadcast some unsettling news her sister had shared with her that morning. If you plug your name and city into, you’ll likely bring up the names of any spouses, children, and family members you have, as well as past addresses and the dates you lived there. Clicking on the links of your relatives takes you to profiles complete with their personal information.

FamilyTreeNow is hardly the only site that makes this data available. Spokeo, PeekYou, and Lexis Nexis (a resource used primarily by lawyers and government employees) all provide databases of personal information pulled from public records like census information and birth, death, marriage, and divorce records (to name a few). But unlike those resources, anyone can access personal details on FamilyTreeNow without paying a fee or creating an account first.

If you're uncomfortable with the thought of your hometown address and the names of your loved ones being just a few clicks away for a stranger to find, Brittain also shared some steps you can take to stay safe. After pulling up your profile on FamilyTreeNow, click “Privacy” at the bottom of the page. From there, go to the subhead titled “Opt Out of Living People Records” under the section “Information We Collect.” After following each step, your info should be hidden from the site for good.

The internet makes it easy to access someone’s public records and just as easy to send them anonymous threats. In order to protect yourself from hacking, doxxing, or identity theft, it’s worth taking the time to remove yourself from as many data broker sites as possible. Computerworld has a useful list of sites that may have your information and directions to opt out of each one.

[h/t The Washington Post]