In December 2021 The Genealogical Society of Finland published the "Responsible Usage of Personal Data in Genealogical Research" guide which was reviewed by the Society's legal committee and approved by the board. The guide instructs how to implement the European Union's data protection regulations in various genealogical situations. Taking data protection into account is not only taking into account quality genealogical work and the rights of other genealogists but is also a part of doing genealogical research responsibly.
Taking into Account the Data Protection Regulation
The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies in principle to all use of personal data. Also all genealogical research needs to take into account the data protection regulations. There are however two significant exceptions: data protection regulation is not applied to handling information on deceased people nor to research done in the context of their private life. In this last instance we are talking about a household exemption.
These two exceptions largely mark genealogy out of the data protection regulation. The majority of genealogical research is into deceased people and the majority of genealogists can use the personal data of living immediate family members.
Contents of the Guide
The data protection guide emphasizes the responsibilities of the genealogist in processing personal data. The guide is based on three pillars: genealogists know their rights, genealogists protect the object of study as prescribed by laws, and genealogists follow ethical practices in the work on both the object of study and each other.
The data protection guidelines provide genealogists with basic information on data protection legislation and instructions on applying it to various genealogical research situations. The beginning of the guidelines also provides an overview on genealogy today and the rights and obligations under which genealogical research is practiced. The guideline's appendix also has examples of data protection policies for various purposes for genealogists.
In November 2011 the two nationwide Finnish genealogy societies, The Genealogical Society of Finland and Finland's Family History Association, issued a joint statement of responsibility in genealogy. In the statement, the societies appealed to Finnish genealogists that they would promote responsibility with the objects of research, the general public and other genealogists.
The statement notes that responsible genealogy is based on quality research, taking data protection into account in all genealogical work, only sharing safe genealogical information and respecting the rights of other genealogists. A responsible genealogist protects the private life and personal information of those being researched and thus respects their fundamental rights.
Data protection advice
Taking data protection into account is, alongside doing quality research and respecting the rights of other genealogists, a part of doing responsible genealogy and taking it into account is something that all genealogists must do. The Society's spokesperson, distinguished lay judge Jouni Elomaa, advises Society members on data protection by phone. Booking a time for advice is done via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Protection of interests
The Society's legal protection of interest focuses on the problems faced by genealogists in the information services of the church population data authorities, especially of those in the vicar's offices and central register.
The executive director is responsible for protecting the interests of the Society. Statements regarding legislative projects are issued by the Society's board. The expert body is a legal committee whose chairman is Kari Salo and the other members are journalist Arto Astikainen, distinguished lay judge Jouni Elomaa, Solja Holappa and deputy judge Johan Ståhl.
P. T. Kuusiluoma represents genealogists in the advisory board of the National Archives and the name board of the Ministry of Justice, as well as in the advisory board of Pirita Frigre's private archives. The society's publicist Laura Aho represents the journal Genos in the Association of Culture, Opinion and Science Magazines, or Kultti ry.