Below are the statement and responses to questions KPIX 5 posed in regards to a recent special report on the accuracy of DNA testing posed to Ancestry DNA.
We understand the critical importance of privacy and enabling our customers’ control over their own data. We also understand that for many customers, one of the greatest benefits of our service is finding new familial relationships and possible relatives. Ancestry provides the ability for customers to choose whether or not to view and be viewed by their DNA matches, so anyone who wants to find new participating family members can see them, while also providing those who might not be open to making such discoveries the ability to not participate.
Does a person who currently utilizes your DNA testing service to determine their ethnic heritage have to participate in the DNA match option?
Ancestry matches all its users against one another in our database. This is a fundamental aspect of the service and is necessary for us to provide our various ethnic regions, genetic communities, and other features of the service. Prior to November 2, 2017, customers choices as to whether they were able to see their DNA matches was limited. Today, customers have the ability to decide whether or not they wish to see (and be seen by) their DNA matches. The DNA matches viewing experience has remained constant — if you are matched to another user as a potential relative, all they will see is your username and our estimated relationship (e.g. 4th cousin). Your potential match can use Ancestry’s messaging platform to reach out to you, but it is always up to the individual customer to decide whether or not to engage. Customers can change their mind at any time, and if you choose not to participate in matching, you will not show up a match for any other customer, nor will you receive lists of any of your potential matches.
At a basic level, we do not share personal information without customer consent. Please note that customers can give permission to other users to see their information, and can proactively share links outside of Ancestry that have their personal information. Ancestry also providers customers the option of opting into our Ancestry Global Diversity research project. If they decide to participate in the research project, by accepting our Informed Consent, customer information may be shared with researchers pseudonymously or on an aggregated basis only.
- Name – User name and profile information is viewable by all ancestry users, but can be configured by the customer. Individual blocking is also available.
- DNA results – Full DNA results are only shown to the individual customer. If you are matched to someone in the DNA matches, you can decide if they see your common ethnic regions or if you reveal all your entire ethnic regions.
- Genetic Matches — We do not share DNA matches with anyone other than the matched individuals, and, as noted above, the decision to see DNA matches and be seen by them is up to the customer activating the DNA test kit. We also make it possible to find common ancestors based on DNA and Family Tree data.
When it comes to providing personal or identifying information when submitting your DNA or setting up an online account:
As is typical for companies that provide services to consumers, we ask for things like names when setting up or activating a new account. However, customers may choose whatever username they want, so long as it is unique and not currently in use by another customer. Other customers of Ancestry only see your username unless you choose to share more information with them or, for example, have a family tree that you have made publicly available.
- What information is subject to subpoena? We can’t speculate on what kinds of information might be asked for in a subpoena. As you can see in our transparency reports, we have received requests for information related to fraud cases but not for things related to customer DNA. We also provide a guide for law enforcement on how to deal with us.
- What information can other clients (i.e. potential DNA matches) see online? (i.e. can you use a fake name for your online account?) – You can make your user name whatever you want so long as it’s not already in use by another user and not obscene.
If you delete your account:
Customers can delete their accounts and/or subscriptions at any time. We will honor or commitment to delete their information once a request is received. After cancellation, your account and any associated information, such as usernames, will not be visible to other customers, and your information will be irretrievable by us. Customers have the option to request account deletion, and even the destruction of their physical saliva samples, at any time, and we will honor our commitment to complete those requests. It is also important to note that with Ancestry, customers always maintain ownership of their data and DNA.