Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Does MyHeritage Show Living Persons in Their Family Trees?

I recently received a comment from Antony Steel on my blog post Connecting to Other Researchers Through (posted 23 June 2011).  I don't know how accurate Anthony's claim is, but it's worth raising to the genealogy world and MyHeritage:

Here's Anthony's initial email to MyHeritage:

I discovered that there is personal information about myself and my wife published on the website.

I am not and never have been a member of, have no wish to join and have no associations with anyone one on there and have never consented to any of my personal information being published within

They say; If a privacy breach is suspected, e.g. one relative posts the details of another relative without permission, the company deletes any data as requested by its owners within 1 to 2 business days.

On 18 June 2013, Anthony sent in a request to to have any personal data they have regarding his immediate family and himself deleted and here is their response:

This is an automatic response

Thank you for writing to MyHeritage.

E-mail support is a premium feature and is available without limits to our subscribers (Premium, PremiumPlus and Data).

If you already have a premium account on MyHeritage but not under the myemail@mail address, please go to our help center log in to MyHeritage using your premium account and then send us your question from there.

If you would like to receive direct access to our support team, consider purchasing a data subscription or data credits
You will gain many additional benefits including unlimited searches in MyHeritage SuperSearch™ and access to Record Matches. Learn more here
You are also welcome to use our knowledge base to find an answer to your question. This is the best way to find answers to the most frequently asked questions at MyHeritage.



Anthony's reply to this email was:

Are you seriously stating that as a profit making company I have no wish to be associated with and using personal data of my family and I without consent, that I would be required to pay a fee in order to view what you have about me on your website and have deleted?

If this is the case, than this is an outrage.

Why should I be part of a subscription fee company, in which I have no desires to be associated with?

I fully intend to take this matter further, no matter how long it takes.

Anthony Steel

Anthony said in the comment:

This is an outrage. These companies believe they have a free hand to acquire anyone’s personal information or their subscribers using the facilities and use it in order to support their fee subscription company site, without consent or consideration of those who have no wish to have their details published or available by a company or someone else’s website not pertaining to them.

I don't know if Anthony is right about this or not.  If he wants to email me at with a specific example (I do need a name, birth date and parents names), I will be happy to investigate and respond to him.

I do think that MyHeritage should be able to provide a response to a privacy concern with more than a form letter that says "subscribe to receive a response from a real person."

The MyHeritage Privacy Policy is at  One paragraph that may be pertinent is:

"If you choose to invite other family members or other users to view and edit your family tree, we will ask you for the individual's email address and name. You must first make certain that you have obtained their consent to pass on their details to MyHeritage. We will only use this information for the purpose of sending the individual his/her access details and will not use the information we collect as a result of this process for marketing purposes.

"In addition you should also make sure that information or material you wish to place on the Website about anyone living is only posted with their prior knowledge and consent. If the person is under the legal age to enter into agreements (typically 18 years old), you represent that you have obtained the consent of the parent or guardian of the person under the legal age to enter into agreements. In all cases, you must make the implications of the consent clear to the person (or, if applicable, to the parent/guardian)."

Is MyHeritage saying in this paragraph that if someone posts information about living people, that they have no responsibility for protecting the privacy of those persons?

To test this, I logged out of MyHeritage, and put myself in the Search box with my birth year, chose "Exact matches" and found only one match - for the California Birth Index, 1905-1995.  I did the same for my daughter, and my cousin, with the same result.  It appears to me that MyHeritage does not find living persons in the family trees for a researcher not logged in.  

I don't know what happened in Anthony's case.  Perhaps their is data for him in a publicly available database like a Birth Index, or perhaps he was invited to join a relative's family tree, did so, and was not asked by the contributor to approve inclusion of his data.  

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Taco said...

Yes, they do. Compare your post with a recent one by James Tanner:

MyHeritage said...

Hi Randy
We're are investigating Anthony's situation right now. We take privacy very seriously.

MyHeritage said...

Hi Randy. As mentioned, privacy is a top priority for MyHeritage and we do not expose details of living people in search.

If someone discovers that information about them or their close family was posted on MyHeritage, even though this would not be accessible to others, we will always delete this information upon their request.

Anthony received an automatic response as he contacted us through a channel which is only open to registered members. There are other ways to contact us and report an abuse that do not receive this response. However as privacy is a major concern, Anthony was answered by our support team as soon as they received his request - and he acknowledged that he was satisfied with our assistance.

Unknown said...

Has Anthony ever used the BackupMyTree service to backup any native family tree files or GEDCOMs? BackupMyTree was acquired by MyHeritage in 2011. They sent the email notice pasted below on 6 Dec 2012, which explicitly states that data from BackupMyTree may be transferred to MyHeritage. I suspect this could be a potential root cause for Anthony's data to appear on MyHeritage.

You are receiving this email because you are a registered member of

As you may know, was acquired by MyHeritage in September 2011. See the official announcement here. MyHeritage has pledged to keep maintained and running as a free service so you can continue using the service uninterrupted for your backup needs.

From time to time the family trees from are transferred for free to MyHeritage to ensure uninterrupted service, protect the data and to give you access to features that can help you grow your tree, such as Smart Matching™ technology and Records Matching™.

As a service to you, we have safely and securely placed your family tree data on 'Family site (BackupMyTree)' at MyHeritage. This site contains your data from BackupMyTree with 4 family trees and 3519 individuals.

What's next?
In case you no longer remember your password on, you can set a new password now.

Visit your new site and family tree at any time by going to and logging in. Then choose the family site you'd like to visit. You can switch between family sites by clicking 'Account' in the top right corner and selecting 'My sites'.

Here is a useful quick link for visiting the new site now: Go to my family site.

MyHeritage is the world's second largest family history service with more than 23 million family trees and over 64 million registered members worldwide. We improve the site on a daily basis and hope you and your family will enjoy the site and treasure your family history for many years to come.

If you have further questions, visit our Help center to get quick answers.

Sincerely, team

If you are not interested in and would like to stop receiving genealogy updates from, click the link below to unsubscribe from further emails

Anthony Steel said...

I managed to deal with this and now have kindly fulfilled my request and deleted the said information regarding my family and I from their websites and all is to everyone’s satisfaction.

I hope this matter is now concluded and I thank everyone concerned, which I am most appreciative.

Best regards

Anthony Steel