In this column, you will find information about:
Q. What is a cookie anyway?
A. A cookie is a small piece of information that a Web site can save on your hard disk. The information that is saved comes from the Web site. It is typically very small and takes up almost no space. In fact, the cookies saved by Family Tree Maker Online are usually shorter than this sentence. A cookie is like a Post-It note the Web site writes to itself, and later reads.
Q. What does Family Tree Maker Online do with cookies?
Q. Sounds pretty harmless, so what's all the hoopla about cookies?
A. There have been some very exaggerated reports about cookies invading privacy, cookies stealing information from your hard drive, etc. One otherwise reputable magazine claimed that a cookie could scan your hard drive for your Social Security number. This is all totally ridiculous. A cookie is a passive piece of information stored by a Web site on your disk. That's all. It is not a program. It does not "run." It can't look in your files. It can't do anything. All it does is save a piece of information information that the Web site had in the first place and give it back to the Web site later. Post-It notes can't rob banks and cookies can't steal files.
Q. So why do some people feel that cookies invade privacy?
A. It turns out that if a banner ad is running on a Web site and that banner ad comes from a different "ad-provider" site, the ad-provider site can save a cookie when you see the ad. This means that as you move from site to site, each of which is showing banner ads from the same ad-provider, that ad-provider could track which sites you visit, and potentially create a profile of your interests. Now, there are other ways to do this even if cookies are disabled, so cookies themselves are not the culprit. Rather it is the policy of the advertising site that would be in question.
One very important point is that the ad-provider site does not know who you are, all they know is that someone using that browser viewed a succession of sites. They have no way of getting your real name, e-mail address, home address, social security number, maiden name, favorite brand of coffee... unless you provide it.
Q. Do I need to allow cookies to use Family Tree Maker Online?
I hope this has cleared up some of the possible confusion about cookies. If you have been fortunate enough to miss all this brouhaha, then you can safely ignore all the preceding.
Q. Where is it and how do I get to it?
A. Click the "Contact Contributors" link in the World Family Tree section of the home page. Or, click this link: Contributor Contact Information Service.
Q. Why aren't the contributors' names on the actual World Family Tree CDs?
A. This is a very important question about which there has been considerable debate. There are two reasons.
- When we started making WFT CDs we didn't know what the contributors would want. Should we spread their home address across millions of computers? Did they want to provide their phone number or their address? We since discovered through surveys that the vast majority wanted to be contacted by mail, not by phone, so we were fortunately able to avoid a potentially bad situation by not just sticking the contributor information on the CDs right off the bat.
- We want to be able to protect the privacy of contributors: this has to be the paramount consideration. With an online system we are able to remove someone's name whenever they want.
Q. Why do you e-mail me the contributor's address instead of just showing me on the Web site?
A. We take privacy very seriously. When we first planned the World Family Tree Project, we consulted with several privacy experts and representatives of several genealogy groups. A key issue was the distribution of contributors' names and addresses. We want to make very very sure that we are not inadvertently giving someone's personal information to a junk mail house, or some unscrupulous organization or individual. By sending the responses via e-mail, we have a way of contacting the person making the request, if necessary, to resolve any questions about uses of the information.
Q. Why is there a limit to the number of addresses I can request?
A. Privacy again. An unscrupulous individual planning to use the information for unpleasant purposes will want large numbers of addresses a few wouldn't do him much good. A regular user who has found some hits in the World Family Tree and wants to contact the contributors can have no legitimate reason to want hundreds of addresses it is extremely unlikely that anyone's file will match hundreds of other files in the World Family Tree. If by some stroke of luck you find your file matching hundreds of others, give us a call and we can adjust your limit.
Q. Why do I have to answer the silly question?
A. This is again to prevent some unscrupulous individual from acquiring the addresses of lots of contributors automatically. It is easy to create a software program that automatically fills out the query form over and over for each tree on each CD, but computers are very dumb they can't even answer the simple silly questions we ask. This little game effectively makes sure a real human is filling out the form.
Q. Why might I sometimes not get an answer?
A. Since the response is via e-mail, it is subject to all the usual problems with e-mail. These include the following:
If you don't get an answer in a few days, try again and really check the e-mail address you type in. In general the system works very well. We send out several hundred responses a day and hear of only a few per month not getting through.
- Some machine between us and you drops the e-mail
- Some machine between us and you is broken and the e-mail is held there for an indeterminate time
- Your ISP makes a mistake and drops some e-mails
- You enter the wrong e-mail address unlike the US Post Office, one single typo, missing character, extra space, wrong punctuation, or whatever can cause messages to silently disappear into the electronic void
Thanks for your time and enjoy the site.
The Family Tree Maker Team
|© 2009 Ancestry.com|