Friday, May 24, 2013

Online Privacy and Safety -- Emotional Safety

Emotional safety is the most difficult of the online privacy concerns. It includes freedom from embarrassment and consideration of others' feelings.

Some of us may remember the story of the man who used a gun to shoot squirrels in his attic. We loved the story of how he shot holes in the ceiling, but I would guess he was very embarrassed that his wife shared it online in a public forum.

I have a photo of my grandfather where he was a bit less dressed than he would have liked in a hospital gown. I would never dream of sharing the photo on a scrapbook page that I posted online.

Some people are just very private, including my significant other. I'm not perfect at honoring his wishes, but I do try. My friend Cheryl hides some of the faces on her scrapbook pages to honor the wishes of her family members.

Scrapbook pages and social media are simple to manage compared to family trees. Online trees are a minefield of privacy concerns. I don't have all the answers by any means, but I do try to honor the wishes of any family member who asks.
  • There is the cousin who swears "that marriage never happened!"
  • The great-uncle who wants his first marriage hidden so as to save his second wife's feelings.
  • The cousin whose father wasn't her father but thought he was.
  • The cousin who wants to be removed from the tree.
  • Those adopted in and those adopted out.
Fortunately I don't post my entire tree online and it does not automatically synchronize to any online service. That makes it simpler to manage these requests. I  heavily use the notes area about such people and their relationships. I set family relationships to show adopted versus biological relationships. Some last names are shortened to just the first letter. I might even replace the name with the word Private or Living and place the name into the notes area. Each secret is documented in the to do list so it can be revisited after people pass on.

Adoption can be tricky. The most important consideration is the feelings of the adoptee, the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

Assuming all parties are in agreement, those who are adopted into a family can be shown as any other family member. Generally the birth parents would have no say in this scenario.

Those who are adopted within the family should be able to be related to multiple parents. That will depend on the desires of the family and on the capability of your software. Here is an example of how I can document a woman who was adopted by her stepfather. I can choose to hide either relationship, if desired. First the birth father is shown, then the adoptive father.

Lastly, how to show those adopted out of the family is, I believe, the hardest scenario. The feelings of the adoptee and the adoptive parents must take precedence over those of the birth family. I've dealt with this case by starting a separate tree for such a person. It is not shared online at this time.

I hope this series has given you some ideas about protecting your family and yourself in your online life.

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