Private Life (i): Family Trees and Fingerprints

In the realm of “wow, that’s scary”, I would invite you to visit and do a search for your name.

Now click on the friendly green “details” button.

If you’re like every other person that I’ve shown this site to, you will find a quite detailed amount of information about you – your family, your associates, and your many past addresses.

Notice how you got it for free?

Notice how a lot of this information is exactly the kind of thing password recovery systems use to verify your identity (“Mother’s Maiden Name”, “High School Mascot”).

Notice how anyone else can get it for free, too?

Here’s something you won’t notice on the site too easily, but it’s there:

Family Tree Now Opt-Out.

Use it if you like. I sure did.

4K and Fingerprints

Meanwhile, scientists have discovered that current cel phone photography has advanced to the point where it is possible to re-create fingerprints from hands in pictures – for example, people making a peace sign.

Since much of our electronics are moving to biometric scanning (my partner Natasha just got a new computer with a fingerprint scanner!) that means what you think is an extra-secure and unique way to ensure privacy is actually pretty frakkin’ vulnerable.

Especially if someone uses FamilyTreeNow to access your cloud stored photo library. Hypothetically, of course (or, as a bunch of celebrities who use Apple found out a while ago, not very hypothetically at all).

This is also a good time to remind you that if a police officer wants to access your phone – your encrypted phone, of course – they cannot force you to reveal the numeric passcode. But they can force you to use your fingerprint.

So if you don’t want them on your phone, turn it off the minute you see them coming for you. It always requires a passcode when it’s restarted.

Or better yet: don’t use a passcode at all!

This is the first of an ongoing series designed to give practical and up-to-date tips to improve the privacy of your life. Let me know what you think, and if you have any suggestions of your own!

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