A newsletter reader posed a question this week:
The small historical society I belong to received the following email. Do you know anything about this group? I don't want to see us get hit by one of the genealogy scams.
In fact, I didn't know anything about the site at www.FamilyTrackers.com, so I decided to investigate.
Here is the text of email that the reader received, complete with the original spelling errors left in:
I just visited your website and believe that your society and members would be interested in Family Trackers World Genealaogy Exchange located at.... (FamilyTrackers.com)
You can promote your society's services on the site, publish small lookups or large projects to a world-wide audience. You always continue to own your copyrights to published materials and set your own prices (or distribute for free). You can even recruite and organize indexers and transcribers on Family Trackers. All society services are free at Family Trackers.
Family Trackers automatically matches genealogists' searches with current and future publications, distant relatives, genealogy societies, professional genealogists, and discussion groups. Our family tree application is one of the best tracking tools online.
Membership, searching and publishing are free on Family Trackers.
Family Trackers, Inc.
1075-239 Space Park Way
Mountain View, CA 94043
Indeed, that seems innocent enough, even with the spelling errors. I've been known to make a few spelling errors myself, so I won't judge that too harshly. However, you'd think that anyone running a genealogy site would know how to spell the word, instead of writing it as "Genealaogy."
A quick check of the site at http://www.familytrackers.com doesn't turn up anything too unusual. In fact, it appears to be a bona fide genealogy-related site.
A quick check of the owner's other business activities shows something suspicious, however.
The same Mr. Gene Hall at the same address in Mountain View is also listed as the owner of Hall Market Research, as well as the owner of Market Profiles at www.MarketProfiles.net. According to that web site's main page:
Market Profiles is a full-service research company that surveys members of our online panel about the web sites that they visit and sells the results to web site marketers through affiliates and directly through our online store.
In other words, a genealogist receives unsolicited mail from Family Trackers, believes it, signs up, and "even recruits and organizes indexers and transcribers on Family Trackers." All of these folks then have their information collected by surveys, and that information is then sold to other marketers.
To my knowledge, there is nothing illegal about this. Hundreds of companies do the same every day. However, the fact that Mr. Hall conceals his real intentions in the unsolicited e-mail message sent to genealogists certainly raises a few questions. The Family Trackers web site also never mentions the selling of information derived from users. That bothers me.
Is this a problem? What do you think?