Tuesday 10 May 2011

Take that down!

Sensitive information. It can be hard to know what causes offense or what people don’t want published. Online publishing often scares people the most. Publish it in a book and they’re delighted. Publish it online and you’re being disrespectful and inappropriate.

We have all sorts of information on thousands of people on our website – some living, most deceased. We’ve had all sorts of complaints – but probably not what you’d expect!

Most complaints have been about the absence of living individuals in our database. Numerous times an e-mail has come in enquiring why we’ve omitted, left out or deleted someone [read in an angry tone!]. Contrary to the worry of most we’ve actually never had a complaint about entries for living people in our databases. If we did though, I’d happily remove them from our website but keep it on file.

Sometimes offence is caused over the belief something is wrong or incorrect. If you reference you can explain where the information came from and ask for further information. On occasion neither party is right – with the truth somewhere in the middle. Complaints can be a great opportunity to get more information or another perspective.

There was one very unfortunate occasion when we caused enormous distress to an elderly person who was previously unaware of information we had on a parent who had died over 70 years ago. We hadn’t done anything wrong with the information we had, and it came from appropriate sources.

The solution? Don’t be scared. Reference your information. Apologise if you cause offence. The reality is if you’re going to be historically accurate you’re going to offend someone at some point. The past wasn’t always nice and rosy.

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