Out On a Limb: DNA companies address concerns about privacy

Tom Mooney - Out on a Limb
Tom Mooney Out on a Limb -

Genealogists and others concerned about data privacy in regard to their DNA tests got some good news recently.

Several companies that do DNA testing for people seeking their ancestries adopted a set of guidelines under which they will not disclose identifiable individual results to third parties.

“This includes your employer, insurance companies, education institutions, and government agencies,” pcmag.com reported last week. “Any transfer of ‘individual-level’ information must require consent from the DNA’s owner.”

Joining in the guidelines are DNA testing giants 23andMe, Ancestry and other major companies testing individuals for their genetic backgrounds, the publication said.

A testing company may still share DNA for medical research, but only after giving the customers details about what it will do and only if the data is “anonymized.” That means, the DNA given to the third party for research will not be identifiable individually but instead grouped together with the DNA of others.

So obviously it is incumbent upon the person seeking to have his or her DNA tested to read what the testing company’s policy is and then decide.

The action was taken after 23andMe’s decision to let a pharmaceutical company use its genetic data for research drew public scrutiny.

There is one exception, pcmag.com said. A testing company may release DNA when served with a warrant by law enforcement. Police agencies are already using DNA samples to build cases against defendants and obtain convictions by testing suspects’ DNA from artifacts and comparing them to similar DNAs in testing companies’ data bases.

Genealogical Society News: Don’t forget – the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society will open for business at its new home in downtown Wilkes-Barre at 11 a.m. on Aug. 8. That’s Annex II of the Kirby Health Center, next door to the former First Methodist Church, on North Franklin Street. A formal grand opening will be scheduled for September.

Genetic Genealogy: Are you looking for some training in this emerging field of using DNA testing to find ancestors and trace migrations? Later this month FamilySearch will offer a pair of free webinars on the subject. They’re scheduled back-to-back on Aug. 30. One is “Genetic Genealogy: An Introduction to DNA.” The other is entitled “DNA: I’ve Tested. Now What?” To sign up for the free webinars, go to www.familysearch.org. Remember that the times listed are Mountain Time Zone, and so you’ll have to add two hours for our East Coast Zone.

I continually urge genealogists to read good histories of the parts of the world where their DNA is found. By doing this kind of reading, you will better understand the origins and movements of the peoples who make up your own ancestry. Ethnic groups were not always exactly where they are found today.

While you’re on the site, take a look at the other webinars offered, including one for the Boy Scout Merit Badge. What’s more, this remarkable site continues to add new genealogical records from all over the world (more than a million in the past month alone), making itself continually more valuable.

News Notes: Congratulations to the Nanticoke Historical Society and Luzerne County Community College for the recent display of Nanticoke history set up in the college library. It’s always a good idea to acquaint more people with the history of the community and the lives their ancestors lived. Don’t forget to check The Guide in the Friday edition of your “Times Leader” for news on upcoming historic walking tours, re-creations and historic sites from now through autumn. They’re fun and informative.

Tom Mooney Out on a Limb
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_TOM_MOONEY.jpgTom Mooney Out on a Limb

Tom Mooney

Out on a Limb

Tom Mooney is a Times Leader genealogy columnist. Reach him at [email protected]

Tom Mooney is a Times Leader genealogy columnist. Reach him at [email protected]