Posted by Heather Erickson on February 23, 2012 in News, Site Features, Website

We know that privacy is increasingly important to you – our users. We want you to know that we care about it too. Our newly published Privacy Philosophy lets you know we have a consistent approach to protecting your privacy and that it is at the core of the decisions we make and what we do.

You may have noticed that we now have a link entitled Privacy (rather than just Privacy Statement) at the bottom of our site. It now includes our new Privacy Philosophy, along with links to our official Privacy Statement (updated) and the comprehensive Privacy Center.

Note: The new Philosophy is not replacing our official Privacy Statement. We wanted to put everything about privacy in one place for you, in what we hope is in a digestible and transparent form.

This isn’t just about updating our privacy language to make it more comprehendible (though we are pretty sure it will help you have a better understanding of’s approach to privacy). Our purpose in adding our Privacy Philosophy and spending time to develop our Privacy Center, is to help you feel more comfortable with what’s available on the site and be rest assured that your content and information you share about yourself and your family on is protected.

The Privacy Center has a lot of helpful information around privacy related topics all in one place to make it easy for you to find answers to your questions.

For example, the explanations dive into how you can control what other people see about you. It’s also about continuing to educate you on the privacy options available on the site, so you can decide which levels you feel comfortable with.

If you haven’t had a chance, take some time to visit our updated Privacy Center.

Plus, help us continue to improve the page and how we communicate our privacy by letting us know what you think. Use the “Send us feedback” link on the right side of the Privacy Center to provide us with your thoughts.

Heather Erickson

Heather Erickson is Head of Global Communications for and has been with the company since 2009.


  1. Connie Arnold

    I think as a member it’s your chioce to list what photo’s are of living relatives. It you don’t want anyone to see them “Don’t put them on the site”.
    What if you have a photo of a living person w/ a dead person???
    You advertise connecting w/ other family tree members! Then you allow the member to become PRIVATE. I have emailed several w/ no response and old email address. Know I have to add everyone that I want to have the living photo’s for there collection or take my time to email not using your site. Ask your customers before you make changes. Yes I’m not pleased AT ALL!!!!!!

  2. Jo

    You really could have thought this “security” change out a little bit more.

    In the first place, I simply cannot understand why “private” tree owners think it’s okay to glean from public trees and not vice versa. Especially when living people are kept private on all trees. What in the world are you afraid of. The more info and data that’s out there, the better chance your family history has of being preserved throughout the ages for all your descendants.

    My problem with the new “security” changes is that even if one is an invited guest to a private tree, you can no longer save anything from that tree. It was suggested to me that I request the private tree owner email me whatever document I’m interested in from their tree. Yippee, then I get the credit for adding it to Ancestry!!!

    Perhaps Ancestry should start a site just for private and hidden tree owners only, as long as they don’t care to share and share alike. Ancestry would never have become what it is today if it was left up to private and hidden tree owners.

    Thank you for letting me get this off my mind.

  3. I have been a member of Ancestry for a number of years, and I have seen many changes over that time. I don’t often post on these blogs and/or complaint forums, but I feel this privacy thing has gone over the edge.
    The biggest thing that drew me to use this site over others originally was that you did have some very important privacy policies that protected us from the people who just want to take and not share, prey on unsuspecting individuals and more. The living person feature you use to keep uninvited guests from accessing personal data is awesome. Keeping that feature as an option for the person sharing their tree, it is important to some people. Additionally the membership fee is high enough that only the most of serious genealogists are joining.
    But the biggest draw of all was being able to share your tree with family members. Quite honestly, if I would have had my tree PRIVATE I would be out at least 25 NEW family members actively participating in our ONE family research project. BUT I do respect that some people do feel differently, and their right to do so. But the neat thing about Ancestry was that you could keep your tree private and STILL SHARE freely with those family members you chose to make guests in your tree. Now you are taking that feature away, as part of some new privacy policy. Really? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
    It doesn’t make sense to me that this would be a huge problem, when you share your tree with someone you assume they will have access to all of it. That was the WHOLE Point. I think the feature of keeping living people as an option to share or not is something SOME people would have issues with, but the person can chose to share the living people information or NOT. If some people do want more privacy, I am not sure what point there would be in sharing if you don’t want anyone to see your tree, so why not have an option to share media or not to share media, like the allow to see living people.

    Maybe some kind of feature that allows a share with ‘guests’ and the guests can access and save to their tree, but that it would not be available to access from that tree unless they also were sharing with the original tree. I am sure these kinds of ideas COULD be implemented. Give the person with the private tre an option to share media, documents and other resources at least with your invited guests. Seriously, if you were not going to share your information, what point would there be to share the tree?
    Additionally I have seen all over the place options to share information directly to Facebook depending on your privacy settings. Really, I have issues with that, but mostly because if you share something that way you have zero control of it. At least in Ancestry, you are sharing it within a controlled environment. That is ONE reason we joined Ancestry, so that we could share in a protected environment while freely sharing with those we chose to, or NOT.
    As far as I can see, if this new policy is going to work the way it seems like it is, no longer will the original person be able to be cited as the source of the info if the tree is private because nobody else will be able to access it. And if the tech savy people do know how to get the file, or it is shared via email, then it will be posted by the person with the public tree, and you would have to manually add the source citation. And THAT won’t include a link to access the person’s profile to contact them like it has always done before. That is exactly the way I have met EVERY SINGLE family member that I am in contact with on this site. 100%.
    I will tell that this could easily influence me and ALL of our current family members to leave Ancestry. Why? Because in the interest of privacy you are removing one of the biggest assets you had. The ability to work on a tree with other family members all over the country (and in many cases the world), freely sharing content, comparing notes….researching and learning together. AND accessing all of the wonderful research tools together, and accommodates ALL levels of interest and researchers working together. Ultimately building the trees together that are more accurate as a result because we could compare our notes!
    Thanks for listening!

  4. Donna

    Well had to add my two (2) cents in to this discussion. I fully agree with all of you and Julie, I am with you and also considering just dropping Ancestry . I am so tired of PRIVATE trees. Most if you look have more than 10000 (ten thousand) family member on their tree. Give me a break. They do not answer your messages and dont have to. They are protected, we are not as public trees. Does that make sense? How do we BLOCK private members once we see they are using our information? I honestly dont care about getting credit for anything on my tree, I do document and give credit to were I get my information and that is enough, but please Ancestry give public trees the option to block PRIVATE trees from accessing our information. Otherwise, I do plan on deleting my tree and giving up my subscription.

  5. Donna Re:#5

    Each person gets to make a choice and each person gets to live with the consequences of that choice.

    Those who want their trees public but want them to block private members are wanting their cake and eating it too. You can’t have it both ways.

    Personally, I’d like to see ALL trees taken off Ancestry and Ancestry become what it always should have been- the premier research site on the net. It would get rid of the namegathering newbies once and for all!

    Andy Hatchett

  6. Donna

    Andy #6
    I am so sorry you thought I was looking to “have my cake and eat it to”. That was not the point I was trying for. I have no desire to block all private trees, I have just had a problem with two people who have no problem using public tree information but when you try to make contact with them – they have blocked all communication. If a private tree can block public then why cant a public tree block certain private trees? That is it nothing else. Fair should be fair. Again I am sorry for upseting you.

  7. Monika

    Donna #5 and Julie #4,

    You can have a private tree and share information on If you would like e.g., a picture or similar data from a private tree, make this private tree owner a “contributor” to your tree and ask them to download that picture onto the appropriate profile page on your tree. I share my data this way, but only with people that I consider responsible genealogists. Not with the junkologists that change or misuse the data you shared no sooner than you shared it with them. (E.g., Juliebug2 who took a picture of my grandfather from a tree of mine when it was still public and who made him the HOME PERSON of her 41,000 name tree even though she is in no way shape or form related to my family!) You may be responsible genealogists, but there are some real wako’s out there, and people have legitimate reasons for making their trees private, which have nothing to do with an unwillingness to share.

    • Nick Cifuentes

      Thank you for your comments; we really appreciate your feedback about privacy on our site.

      We introduced this Privacy Philosophy to try and provide straightforward answers to common questions or concerns members have about privacy. The Privacy Philosophy doesn’t replace our Privacy Statement, but rather acts as an additional resource to our member to know what information is shared publically and what tools are in place to protect and control your information.

      In some comments there seems to be some misunderstandings about the ability to collaborate with others. We haven’t changed your ability to share your tree and collaborate with others. Members are still able to share their full tree with people they choose and can still give others permission to view living people, if they’d like. Additionally, members who add original content to their tree are cited as the original contributor when other members save it to their tree.

      It’s exciting to see our members engage with others to further their family history research and it’s our goal to provide a comfortable place to do so.

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