Dna Testing


3 mins


I received a DNA test kit for Father’s Day. I’m not going to use it.

Here’s why.

Submitting a DNA test to Ancestry requires signing up for an account and agreeing to their terms of service. I can imagine lots of people do this without actually reading the ToS.

The Ancestry ToS is a contract. When you sign it, you’ve entered into an agreement that allows them to, among other things, take an in-perpetuity license to your DNA. IANAL, but I do understand this to be an incredibly overreaching right being claimed by Ancestry. It means they would have rights to do whatever they wanted with my DNA literally forever.

Forever is a long time. What if 20 years from now, my DNA is the foundation of the cure for some form of cancer? Neither I nor my heirs would have any rights to or ownership in any medical advances or breakthrough(s) facilitated by my DNA.

This is more troubling: law enforcement might use my DNA against me – and here’s where it gets alarming – or my genetic relatives, even if they aren’t Ancestry customers.

Ancestry is on record stating that they won’t share your DNA profile with law enforcement “…without a valid legal process”. The clear inference is that law enforcement can - and probably does - obtain DNA profiles through subpoenas. My DNA could be used to identify genetic relatives in the context of a criminal investigation, even if they haven’t supplied their own DNA to Ancestry.

To Ancestry’s credit, they publish transparency reports stating that in the past four years, they’ve received no law enforcement requests for DNA information on its members. They report one valid law enforcement request in 2014 that resulted in Ancestry identifying a member with a previously publicly disclosed DNA profile that police had matched to a criminal complaint.

It appears Ancestry is doing the right thing with regard to protecting member DNA profiles. But the potential to unwittingly expose a genetic relative isn’t a decision I should get to make.

Now, for anyone wondering: no, I don’t have anything in my past that makes me paranoid to take a DNA test. I never robbed banks, never raped anyone (that’s an awful thing to type out, sorry), never did {whatever else might be proven with a DNA test}. I did goofy stuff with motorcyles and once snuck into Six Flags, but nothing even approaching the level of criminal conduct that involves DNA samples. I got caught when I messed up.

But that doesn’t give me the right to surrender the rights of my genetic relatives.

– jbminn