Saturday, March 3, 2018

The European Union is Going to Affect Genealogy

The soon-to-come-into-effect EU “General Data Protection Regulation” (GDPR) is going to have a nasty impact for Family Historians. At the RootsTech Innovation Showcase, The LegalGenealogist Judy Russell highlighted this as one of the biggest challenges facing the industry.

Kurt Witcher, Judy Russell, David Rencher and Scott Fisher
on the "Innovation Showcase" panel.

So what is GDPR? It’s a policy to protect personal information that will come into effect in the EU in May 2018.

The GDPR aims primarily to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU. [Wikipedia contributors, "General Data Protection Regulation," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed March 2, 2018).]

Sounds innocuous? Maybe, but it isn’t.

According to the European Commission, "personal data is any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address." [Wikipedia, op.cit]

As with all new legislation, we won’t really know how it pans out until test cases come before the courts, but already one archive in Norway has decided that the new regulations will require them to withdraw some records from public access.

European Union Flag

Think that it won’t affect you? Think again. Any companies anywhere in the world that have data about EU residents have to comply with these new regulations. What if someone who served in the Australian forces during WWII now lives in the EU. Will their service records be able to be made available?  What about the World War II Nominal Roll website ( which includes dates of birth?

We’ll have to put this in the “wait and see” basket.

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