Should You Remove Your Data Now From Ancestry.com?

Blackstone Inc. is purchasing Ancestry.com. (See my earlier articles at https://bit.ly/31Im9sL and at https://bit.ly/3gJN6lP for the details of the announcement.) As you might expect, the announcement has generated a lot of questions amongst genealogists asking questions about the future of the company and how the services might change. Many of those questions concern the privacy of personal DNA information of customers as presently held by Ancestry.com.

Are there any issues of privacy or with the idea that the new web site owners might use your genealogy data or your DNA information for purposes you never envisioned when you contributed the information? The answers are mixed.

As I mentioned in my previous articles, Kevin Truong wrote, “’To be crystal clear, Blackstone will not have access to user data and we are deeply committed to ensuring strong consumer privacy protections at the company,’ a spokesperson for Blackstone told Motherboard in an email. ‘We will not be sharing user DNA and family tree records with our portfolio companies.’”

In contrast, an article by James Gelinas in the komando.com web site at https://www.komando.com/security-privacy/remove-your-data-from-this-ancestry-site-now/748931/ warns, “Since genealogy websites collect so much data, their user database can be quite valuable in the corporate world. And that’s exactly what’s happening to Ancestry.com thanks to an acquisition by Blackstone — its new parent company. This means if you sent your DNA to Ancestry, Blackstone has it now. Here’s how you can remove it.”

That article at https://www.komando.com/security-privacy/remove-your-data-from-this-ancestry-site-now/748931/ then goes on to provide step-by-step instructions of how to remove your data from the web site.

COMMENT by Dick Eastman: Removing your data now from Ancestry.com strikes me as a useless procedure. The web site’s present owners undoubtedly have backup copies of everything entered previously and those copies are included in the sale of all the Ancestry.com assets to Blackstone Inc. Any attempt to remove data from the web site today will not remove anything from the backup copies.

Removing your data today from Ancestry.com is a case of “closing the barn door after the horse got out.”

11 Comments

Once you’ve given your DNA away, you’ve given it away…

Liked by 1 person

    We didn’t exactly “give” our DNA away. We paid a rather hefty price for these corporations to use our DNA for their benefit; only some give us any data above and beyond point of origin for some of our ancestors in return. The one that freaked me out was the offer to “manage” medical data to which only doctors and pharmacists should have access. No, thank you!!!

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‘We will not be sharing user DNA and family tree records with our portfolio companies.’
That’s cute. Words carefully chosen. No user DNA or family tree records. Got it.
But what about genetic DATA and personal information? No promises there. Per the consent agreement:
When you give consent, Researchers may use all data that you provide to us when you use our Services, including Biological Samples and any data derived from those samples (the “Data”). Data includes:
Genetic Data: Genetic information derived from processing your DNA Sample through genomic, molecular, and computational analyses using various technologies, such as genotyping and whole or partial genome sequencing. Genetic Data is broader than just the results delivered to you when you use the AncestryDNA test and includes a range of DNA markers such as those associated with your health or other conditions;
Self-Reported Health and Trait Data: Information that you voluntarily share with us about the health, medical conditions, diseases, lifestyle or other traits of you and your family members, for example through the family health history tool or by answering questions on our Services;
Family Tree Data: Information that you voluntarily share with us about yourself and family members when creating family trees, such as genealogical data, pictures and birth dates. Family trees you mark as “private” are not used for the Project;
Other Data about you: information that you share with us when you register, create a profile, or use your account, and information we obtain from other sources, such as publicly available genealogical data or demographic information; and
Additional Data that may be shared in the future: other information you voluntarily share with us as we expand our Services, such as biosensor data recorded by mobile phones or activity trackers or health and wellness data collected from other devices. You are under no obligation to share additional data with us. However, if you do and you have given consent to participate in the Project, it may be used by the Researchers.

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Forget what the conspiracy theorists are saying. Users are protected by the Ancestry Privacy Statement which says (amongst other things):
” We give you control over the Personal Information you provide to us, including your DNA Data, and how it is used, shared, and retained.”
“You always maintain ownership of your DNA and DNA Data—you can manage and delete it as described in this Privacy Statement.”
“If Ancestry or its businesses are acquired or transferred (including in connection with bankruptcy or similar proceedings), we will share your Personal Information with the acquiring or receiving entity. The promises in this Privacy Statement will continue to apply to your Personal Information that is transferred to the new entity.”
Users in the European Union are additionally protected by GDPR, breaches of which could incur fines running into hundreds of millions of dollars. I don’t know whether there is similar legislation in the US.

Liked by 1 person

The Patriot Act, pushed by GWBush/Cheney, and passed in Congress with little or no discussion, took away our privacy (it was later renamed “USA Freedom Act” slightly revised but retained the offensive Section 215). That was followed by taking away more of our rights with MCA ’06, FISA ’08, MCA ’09, NDAA ’12. The latter two passed under Obama; Trump just inherited the unconstitutional laws passed by Congress under the previous two administrations and continued their practices. All of the politicians, without exception, have lied to us to a greater or lesser degree. Congress lacked the foresight to figure out that the special privileges they wanted their administration to have could be used, misused, and abused by future executives, and the corporations, big money interests, and warmongers who bribed them (political affiliation doesn’t matter to the donors; they give campaign contributions – aka bribes – to politicians of both parties equally).
If you are following Blackstone’s activities in light of their acquisition of Ancestry, be aware of the fact that The Blackstone Group just donated $3.8 million to Trump’s campaign. The FEC graph is at 2:18 on the video at this link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tL-4UKeb4k
Steve Schwarzman is a co-founder of The Blackstone Group.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blackstone_Group
[For the record: I am NOT a member of any major or minor political party. I loathe equally the left and right branches of what has become the Uni-Party since the legislation that gives everything to corporations and other monied interests couldn’t pass without the votes by legislators of both parties. I blame both the DNC corporation and the RNC corporation for not giving us decent candidates to vote “for,” so we’re stuck with voting “against” someone, and, by default, voting “for” the lesser of two evils, which is still voting “for” evil. I’m not the least bit interested in the political personality fights going on with the side benefit that corporations, big money interests, and warmongers continue getting record-setting profits; that leaves We the People ignored, and in the midst of a pandemic that is unconscionable.]

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I hope Blackstone takes the opportunity to add a chromosome browser to AncestryDNA and makes it more useful for genetic genealogists. The competition has had that feature for years,

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Backup servers are for unexpected and unwanted loss of data. When a user wants to delete data they own (and we do own our DNA, contrary to what the fear mongers say), it’s different. Companies warn that once it’s deleted, it’s permanently gone. Of course, some level of trust has to be placed in the company that this is true, but they’d be breaking their own TOS by not removing the data entirely. And I’m sure that if someone really wanted to, an expert computer engineer could recover the data somehow. But it’s unlikely they would, when they still have literally millions of dna profiles legally still on their server. So I feel reasonably sure that if you delete your dna, it will be gone. But personally, I don’t see the point for different reasons. Ancestry has merely changed hands from one private equity company to another. Blackstone have promised they won’t have access to dna profiles, and while I admit that could change, if I have concerns about private equity companies, I should have had them before now. Permira (the company selling to Blackstone) is private equity too.

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Their statement said they would not share it with their portfolio companies. They did not say anything about selling it or about sharing it with other companies. They have a plan for it, and I bet it does not benefit those who purchased Ancestry products and services!

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    A good reason for them not to say anything about selling it or sharing it with other companies is because they can’t, under the terms of the Ancestry Privacy Statement. The assurance they gave related to what they are allowed to do.

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Arlene Georgia Miles August 25, 2020 at 4:02 pm

Since there is no easy way to get all the information from one’s account saved to their hard drive/server from Ancestry.com, might as well not worry who gets to see and use it for their own priorities (money/bottom line). 1984 is still here.

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I am not sure what people are worried about. I love the Ancestry DNA. So far, I have found 2 cousins and a nephew who were adopted. I have also found multiple DNA matches that verify some ancestor finds that I had some questions about. I can’t see any compelling reason for withdrawing my DNA or my Ancestry Tree.

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