Dear Readers, this may be what you all have been waiting for: Mme. Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, past president of the Forum des droits sur l'internet and current president of CNIL (the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés) has just allowed FamilySearch International to :
- Preserve parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices to them as well as census returns, in order to publish the data online, under certain conditions, and
- Transfer the personal data of the above, again under certain conditions, to the United States, in order to index that data
The conditions will require work, indeed:
- Before indexing and before putting the scanned documents online, portions of the data must be blocked out: anything concerning a person's physical or mental health, religion, convictions of crimes, should the document containing this data be less than 150 years old;
- The programme that will do the indexing will be controlled by a human and not be totally automatic;
- The indexing of the data must be verified,(e.g. the sloppy indexing we sometimes see is not to be permitted);
- Use of the data will be in compliance with French laws and regulations;
- Concerning those who access the data on FamilySearch, they may be: those who have a user's account, those who help with the indexing, the general public via the Internet, or organisations not making a profit from the data;
- FamilySearch must respect individuals' rights as defined by French law and by CNIL and will inform users in clear language of what those rights are;
- FamilySearch must preserve the identification of the indexers for as long as they hold the data;
- FamilySearch must put in place safeguards against users downloading large numbers of images or publishing any that they download.
The entire decision may be read on LegiFrance.
But will it really come to pass? At the 22nd Genealogy Conference in Marseilles, we sauntered up to the FamilySearch desk, placed in an unusually out of the way nook. We were pleased to see that, unlike at the 2011 Congress in Lille, they took the trouble to translate their handouts into French.
We congratulated them on the CNIL (pronunced "kineel", by the way) decision and asked how they planned to comply with the masking and other requirements.
"We are studying it and doing costing for it, but we really want this to happen," said the rosy-cheeked young man at the desk. "It WILL happen!" he promised. Reflecting his optimism and determination, more than half of FamilySearch's space at the conference was dedicated to signing up an army of indexers.
"Do you mean that, no matter what the cost, you are determined to do it?" we pressed. "There is no chance that FamilySearch may have to drop the project?"
"That would be terrible!" he cried, then said "Well, yes, it might be too expensive, but I hope not."
We asked about the touchy situation with the Departmental Archives. He told us that FamilySearch plan to visit them all, "to be sure of their support and help," which is more wooing than Don Juan could have done. We asked finally how we might follow developments, and he pointed us to the FamilySearch blog in French.
"It has to be the French one, because that is where we tell about it. But we don't say too much because journalists read it and distort it and then the archivists get mad." (Does one interject an "oops" here?)
If the project actually carries through to concrete results, it will be momentous for those researching French genealogy online, for it will bring the longed-for indexing of all French parish and civil registrations, thus for the first time allowing them to be searched centrally. It will also pretty much render defunct the websites of many of the Departmental and Municipal Archives. Presumably, to survive, those archives will race to film records not made available to FamilySearch, which would be very nice for all of us in the long run, if costly to the point of breaking backs for the archives.
Why, after so much opposition to this has this come to be? We suspect that it may be because FamilySearch is free, while others who wanted to be allowed to do the same thing would have charged a fee to users of the index. We also suspect that CNIL believe they have created a series of hoops through which no one, not even FamilySearch, could jump.
©2013 Anne Morddel