Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ancestry.com Changes Privacy Agreement

Ancestry.com announced changes to its privacy agreement last Friday, 27 June 2015.

The changes expand the agreement to Ancestry Academy. It looks like Ancestry also offers or will offer Newspapers.com to other companies as a cobranded “powered by” website. The new privacy agreement applies to those websites as well.

The changes allow Ancestry to make you go to each of its websites to opt out of promotional email.

By using any of Ancestry’s family of websites, you consent to let users share your family history information with users of any of Ancestry’s websites, including fold3.com, newspapers.com, findagrave.com, archives.com, and any other website on which Ancestry provides a link to this privacy policy page. Does that means stuff on Find A Grave can be shared with users of Ancestry.com?

You consent to allow Ancestry to monitor, collect, and share with other users information about your activities on their websites, such as the courses you’ve taken on Ancestry Academy.

Ancestry reminds users that it publishes legally available personal information on records about you. Such records include census, birth, marriage, and death records. I know there are other sources of information, such as some state driver license registrations. It will consider removal of your information from its indexes on a case by case basis. I think that removal of your name from images is another matter. It would be pretty expensive to blot out your name on a census, for example. They also can’t remove your name from the original records, as those are controlled by state governments or other information owners. Before publishing such records, they redact sensitive information. They don’t mention what they consider to be sensitive, but I imagine it is information like social security numbers.

While Ancestry will generally send marketing information to you by email, you consent to contact by direct mail or even by telephone. These include promotional offers by both Ancestry and third parties. You can easily opt out of the emails, but I think to opt out of telephone solicitations you’ll need to contact Ancestry.

Ancestry and various websites show Ancestry advertisements. The privacy agreement allows Ancestry to specialize the ads shown to you based upon your demographics. This includes year of birth, geographic area, and gender. Gender information is useful because males and females have different buying patterns. I know that companies can purchase other demographic data, such as your household income based on your address. The privacy agreement allows Ancestry to specialize the Ancestry ads shown to you, not just on Ancestry’s websites, but other websites as well. Those Ancestry ads you’re seeing on other websites? The agreement allows Ancestry to customize them just for you, perhaps according to which subscription you own, if any, or whether or not you’ve purchased a DNA test. However, Ancestry is not disclosing individualized, personal information about you to other advertisers.

Personally, I would rather have specialized ads designed to match my interests than to get random ads I’m not interested in. But if you don’t want specialized ads, you can opt out by visiting a link to truste.com that is provided in the agreement. You won’t find Ancestry listed on the page on truste.com. I think it lists ad networks that show specialized ads, not the advertising companies. I suppose you’ll need to opt out of all the companies listed. You’ll need to go through the process on each browser and each device that you use. If you delete the cookies for a browser, you will have to make your election again. And I think your election applies to all specialized ads, not just Ancestry’s. Ancestry doesn’t say so in the agreement, but on another webpage states that there is a second webpage you must visit to opt out of additional specialized Ancestry ads. Note that opting out of specialized ads doesn’t stop all advertisements from Ancestry. You’ll still receive generic ads.

Ancestry also monitors what websites you visited immediately prior to visiting one of the Ancestry websites. They track the MAC of your network hardware, “your computer type, screen resolution, operating system version and Internet browser.” They track your device type and IP address.

You agree to let Ancestry disclose your personal information if it is necessary to preserve Ancestry’s reputation.

If Ancestry sells part or all of its business, it will sell your personal information along with it. If Ancestry goes bankrupt, your private information can be sold off as one of the assets used to raise money to pay off its debts. In that case, the agreement doesn’t specify that your personal information will remain protected to the degree outlined in this agreement.

Some features of the Ancestry website are provided by other companies and governed by the other companies’ privacy policies. I don’t know if Ancestry discloses all of them, so some things you do on Ancestry websites may have unforeseen privacy consequences. Ancestry calls out logging in via your Facebook password or clicking the Facebook “Like” icon as examples. Entering Ancestry contests or surveys are subject to different privacy policies. Before participating, you may wish to check the terms.

Ancestry allows you to control the disclosure of some of your information. It provides webpages to do so. See section 4 of the agreement for links to the pages on its various websites.

If you contribute information (such as a public member tree or a photograph) and other users copy it, and you later delete it, Ancestry will not ferret out all the copies other users have made and delete the copies. However, they delete the attribution formerly given to you.

If someone has violated your privacy rights, you can contact Ancestry to have the matter resolved. Ancestry “will only implement such requests with respect to the personal information associated with the particular email address that you use to send us your request.”

If you were an Ancestry website user prior to 26 June 2015, then the changes don’t become effective until 26 July 2015. If you decide you don’t like the new policy, you can choose to discontinue your account. To see the privacy statement yourself, visit http://www.ancestry.com/cs/legal/privacystatement.


  1. I am NOT happy about this--especially the part about sharing my Phone #-there is a reason I am on the DO NOT CALL register...and I am not happy about having to go to who knows how many websites to opt out. I wonder if ancestry.com account holders will file a Class Action Lawsuit about this. It certainly sounds like something that should be fought.

  2. Thank you for this in plain English.

  3. So we're damned if we delete our account and damned if we don't. Another web site that changed the rules after I signed up. I like ancestry less and less every day. SO glad I did not give them more money. I wish there was somewhere to move my tree that is as easily accessible for cousin bait. I have moved it to a few new places; waiting to see which web site raises to the top now. Ancestry has become the genealogical Wal Mart. I haven't set foot in a W-M for YEARS.

  4. I am glad I don't give out my phone number.

  5. As has been stated earlier on this site, Ancestry is now owned by a foreign corporation. Ownership has been flipped several times in the past decade or so. We who subscribe to Ancestry are its customers, and we ought to be respected as such.

  6. There should be a class action lawsuit against Ancestry. There is a huge number of complaints about the new format I absolutely hate it. I pay them too much for them to ruin all I've researched for years. How do we file the class action?

  7. This is Ancestry maximizing shareholder value by leveraging your contributions and owning your work. Its real value is for records. Everybody certainly should maintain their own tree locally, and maybe use free WikiTree for sharing. Not as pretty, but nobody is making money off you and charging you for it.


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