Our Family Wizard — Tracking Your Divorced Life

Last week I heard of a web-based service for divorced or separated families, Our Family Wizard:

Secure, shared communication, schedules and information management for families. We help parents who are separated, divorced or living apart and the family law professionals who work with them manage communication, parenting time schedules, children’s’ activities, expenses and other important information using our website.

Their privacy policy tells us that they won’t sell your information, but also adds that:

The OurFamilyWizard website also receives and records information on our server logs from your browser including your IP address, OurFamilyWizard cookie information and the page you requested. . . .

The OurFamilyWizard website will send personally identifiable information about you to other companies or people when (1) we have to respond to subpoenas, court orders or legal process. . . .

This sort of information collection presents some risks. Your IP address may disclose your location. Or it may not lead directly to you, but it may instead lead to you via subpoena to your ISP. It will at least reveal the subscriber of the ISP. It will also lead to any other computers you used to access the website, whether at work, a shelter, or other safe place. The privacy policy does say that they will respond to subpoenas (and they have to) but it does not promise that they will give you notice of subpoenas, before or after they make that disclosure.

Second, I’m concerned about how the records of the interaction of this website will be used. A spouse with more tech savvy, or even just more abusive motivation, can create more records of interaction with the website. If I’m understanding the operation of the website correctly, they can make more requests — thus showing the other to more often deny requests — or show more availability. These records may be relied on by judges or other decisionmakers in divorce or custody to determine which person is being more cooperative. The records will be rather simple — how many hits, how many times logged in, how many requests accepted / denied — simple and decontextualized from any abuse or other malfeasance. The temptation exists for a court to use these because they are so simple, and perhaps because since they are easily quantifiable may acquire a patina of objectivity.

Lastly it appears that they show ads which place third party cookies on your browser. This means that other websites, other parties, will be able to track your visit to the website. Welcome to being profiled as a divorced parent as your browse the rest of the Internet — some third party cookie companies are quite big and can track you in many places on the Internet.

Posted: August 18, 2008 in: