There are plenty of websites on the Internet that offer to reveal your ancestral data from your DNA. The premise is simple: you pay for a kit, use it to extract DNA, and send it back to be analyzed. However, have you ever wondered what the company does with your data after you’ve sent it off? Do you know that your DNA is worth some money in the market?
Let’s explore the shady underside of big ancestral trackers and how you can scrub your data from their records, if you so desire.
Why Do Companies Care About Your DNA?
When you use a DNA kit to see your heritage, it’s stored in a database for later use. When an organization wants to use it, it’s typically for one of two reasons: law enforcement and drug development.
Why Law Enforcement Wants Your DNA Data
Of course, if the law wants your DNA data, it’s not something the business can make money off of. However, it’s worth noting that it can happen if you decide to use one of these services.
The police typically probe for DNA data if they have a crime they want to solve but only have DNA traces to go off of. This can happen even if you’re not the direct suspect. If the police look for similarities and it turns out you’re the relative of the culprit, they may approach you for further details.
The law can’t just access the DNA databases whenever they like, but the companies do bend when a court order comes into play. This tactic does work and was used to track down a serial killer once, so it’s a card that the police will play from time to time.
Why Drug Companies Want Your Data
This is where a testing company will make money from your DNA. This information is very useful for drug companies, who are interested in DNA data for further developing their drugs.
For example, back in 2018, GlaxoSmithKline acquired a $300 million stake in 23andMe, a popular DNA-testing website. The goal was for GSK to use the DNA data to develop new and better drugs.
In fact, the DNA database was so good for developing drugs, 23andMe stepped forward themselves in early 2020 by selling the rights of a drug they developed to Almirall, a Spanish pharmaceutical.
Should You Use These Services?
The thing is, while companies can profit from your DNA data, some would argue that it’s not wholly a bad thing. After all, if people are using your DNA to catch serial killers and develop new drugs, what’s the problem?
As such, it’s down to you if these uses of your DNA data is more or less important than your privacy. Handing over data is always easy; getting a company to delete it again is the hard part.
It’s helpful if you select a reputable, privacy-respecting company to perform the DNA test, too. If you want to know who your ancestors are but dislike the idea of surrendering your data, try our picks of the best privacy-respecting DNA-testing websites.
How to Remove Your Data from Bigger Websites
If you’ve already submitted DNA samples to a big company and want to remove this data, there are ways to submit a request to delete your information from their database.
For Ancestry, visit the AncestryDNA support page for more info. The steps involve going into your settings page and scrolling down to “Delete DNA Test Results and Revoke Consent to Processing.”
Fortunately, 23andMe has made their DNA deletion process a lot easier than it once was. As per their support page, you can access your account service and delete your account to scrub their database of your DNA info.
DNA, Your Way
DNA kits can reveal a lot about your heritage, but they can also make the DNA analysis company a lot of money through drug research. Now you know how DNA companies use your data, whether you agree with it or not.
Other than checking your ancestral heritage, do you know that you can also store data on your DNA?