DNA Testing Kits: Does Privacy Matter to Ancestry DNA and 23andMe?
Not long ago that it would have been surprising to learn that DNA tests can be submitted from home and provide clients with so much information, however, with Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com gaining steam, that is the reality. You can now find out both your genetic ancestry and health history.
However, before you hop on the bandwagon and complete a test of your DNA, it is important to consider what this might mean for your privacy. If you share your DNA with a third party, how is it protected? Will it be sold or shared with others, without your consent? How is it stored and for how long? Join us as we explain how your DNA is protected and isn’t.
DNA Testing Privacy Issues
AncestryDNA and 23andMe are not the only DNA testing sites. There are also others like MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA. We will explore the privacy of each and their strengths and weaknesses. In total, over 12 million people have had their DNA tested through one of the major testing companies, as of the year 2018.
Ancestry.com is one of the most popular DNA testing kit sites. In 2017, their files were breached by hackers, and they have since added additional security measures, precautions, and updated their privacy policies. They store your sample of DNA (saliva) indefinitely. If you want your sample removed, they will do so upon request (if you contact their customer service division).
What has given many pauses about AncestryDNA, is that they now collaborate with Calico (Google’s lab) to study aging and the human lifespan. Calico is using genetic data from Ancestry in this study.
Following behind Ancestry in popularity, but gaining steam, 23andMe claims to have a customer base of 1 million plus. Offering health and ancestry test, they have modernized how they keep their consumer data. Since no site is un-hackable, this concerns some privacy experts. You can request that your sample (saliva) be disposed of after it is tested but the default time that 23andMe stores it for is listed as ten years.
Another option for DNA analysis is MyHeritage.com. Unfortunately, though they have been around since 2016, they were hacked in 2018 with millions of accounts breached! Thankfully, the hack/ theft was of stolen emails and passwords (encrypted), not genetic data. Like Ancestry and 23andMe, MyHeritage stores your saliva sample. They do so until it is no longer able to be used, though the period before it is disposed of is not specified in length.
The Good and Bad News
Most of the DNA sites are equal in their privacy strengths/risks. Given the subject matter (your DNA!) this will continue to be a hotly debated subject with privacy experts falling on both sides of the fence. While some feel that DNA testing kits are private and safe, others sound the alarm.
Regardless of personal opinion and whether DNA testing is right for you, choose the site, you use carefully and read all FAQ’s and disclosures, as well as any updates they adapt. Another large part of privacy is your internet presence.
When was the last time you checked the web trail that is available about you? Unlike DNA data, your web trail only a click away, through search engines. Search your name, username, phone number, images, and more in one place through a comprehensive search at Social Catfish.
On Social Catfish, you can find the public information that others can see about you and work at having it removed.