By Sam Stanton
The Sacramento Bee
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) FamilyTreeNow.com offers the ability to search for virtually anyone nationwide without telling the operators who you are or why you want the information.
The Sacramento Bee
Want to know where a judge lives? The names of the mayor’s kids? The home addresses and ages of some former county sheriffs?
A controversial website created by a Sacramento-area online entrepreneur is offering that service to anyone for free and without even the hassle of signing up with an email address or identity.
FamilyTreeNow.com pitches itself as having “billions of historical records” from census files, birth and death indexes, military files and marriage and divorce records.
“Enter a name and begin your journey,” the site invites users. “Trace your family origins back hundreds of years. Find your ancestors and long lost relatives. Start researching your family tree now!”
The site offers the ability to search for virtually anyone nationwide without telling the operators who you are or why you want the information. While many other services offer comprehensive data, addresses and phone numbers on people, they frequently charge for the service and at least require an email address.
FamilyTreeNow.com doesn’t do that, and the ease with which people can be tracked has stirred controversy.
A Washington Post headline called it a “creepy genealogy site,” and worried people commenting in web forums have denounced it.
“I have a stalker, and my … address and phone number are listed on this site,” one wrote. “It is a danger to many in society. As if i didn’t have difficulty sleeping before! Doors double locked. Thanks family tree … this might be the last thing i ever say.”
The site apparently is the brainchild of Dustin Weirich, who is listed in California secretary of state records as its manager from a May 2015 filing.
A LinkedIn listing for a Dustin Weirich from the Sacramento area does not mention the site, but says he is the former founder of the Internet dating site DateHookup.com and sold it in 2012 to Match.com. It also lists him as CEO and founder of a firm called Blade Fire Studios that shares the same Roseville address as FamilyTreeNow.com.
Weirich’s page also lists his time studying computer science at Sacramento State from 2008-2009. “Got bored, left,” his page explains.
Weirich could not be reached Friday. He did not respond to a message left through LinkedIn, and phone numbers listed for him in various online records did not work. Curiously, searching the site for his name did not produce a match.
The site includes information even on some people in law enforcement who reasonably would expect their backgrounds to be obscured from such view because often they apply to have the information removed from some public records.
“This is not good,” prominent Sacramento attorney William Portanova said Friday as he plugged his name into the search engine and saw the detailed results. “You’re talking to a guy who was prosecuting gang members. I was threatened by the Aryan Brotherhood and had security stuff set up at my house.
“The problem with this is, there is no legal problem with this. It is part of the new future. I guess I’ve just given up on privacy.”
The Better Business Bureau has not accredited the business and gives it a C-plus rating. The bureau lists Weirich as the CEO and places the business at an address in Roseville.
“BBB has received a number of complaints for FamilyTreeNow.com concerning public information which can be found by doing a records search of an individual’s name and city, state, and/or birth date,” the group’s website states. “Complainants are typically unhappy that FamilyTreeNow.com can be used to look up personal information such as current and past addresses as well as possible relatives.
“The company generally responds to these complaints by removing the consumer’s information from public view or explaining how the complainant can ‘opt out’ of having their information searchable.”
Individuals who want to be removed from the site can do so by going to http://www.FamilyTreeNow.com/optout and following the steps listed.