Re: issues of DNA privacy #dna

Bob Silverstein

Hi Judy,

Randy Schoenberg is the expert here.  He is a lawyer with many years of experience in genealogy.  Last summer, he gave a webinar on this topic and stated that he never heard of any breach of privacy regarding online DNA.  He is the one to answer your question.

In lieu of Randy, let me comment.  I am not expert in DNA privacy but deal with this issue all the time.  As a practical matter, most people have already decided and for whatever informed or uninformed or misinformed reasons they may have, you will not change their minds.  "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up."  Nonetheless, here is how I discuss it with them.  All websites have security and policies to protect you.  They cannot and do not give your DNA to anyone else.  The law bans insurance companies from using your DNA data.  Although my knowledge is limited, I am unaware of the major websites of ever being hacked successfully.

The next point regards the technology.  The genealogy sites do not sequence the entire genome.  Each site looks for limited portions of the genome for what it thinks is important to determining ethnicity or cousins.  (The websites look at other regions regarding medical questions.)  The only person who can see the actual DNA sequences is you and you have to download the data.  When matches are made, neither person can see the actual sequence but rather only where the match is.  Such information is useless to someone who wants misuse your DNA.

The final issue is identity theft.  Perhaps someone could tell us how knowing a small portion of your genome could then steal your identity.  If they wanted to do so, criminals can buy plenty of your information on the dark web.  And how about lawful government agencies and corporations?  Look at what they already have on us.  I have filled out credit card applications and they found where I lived and the car I drove 40 years ago.  So, tell me about privacy.

As I said before, my mind is made up, do not confuse me with the facts.  I will be glad for someone to present evidence as to why I am wrong but until then, I will not worry about the misuse of my family tree DNA.

Bob Silverstein

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