It's a growing industry, with radio, television, and print ads to boot – but do you know where your DNA might be going after signing on with one of those genealogy companies?
"Family Tree in particular has come under fire for not disclosing to the people who gave them their data that they share this data with the FBI without even getting warrants first," says Dan King, a senior contributor at Young Voices. "They have issued a statement and sent an email to customers apologizing for it and explaining that they do have a setting within the app where you can turn off this data matching." (See related article)
He continues: "However, that then defeats the purpose of giving your DNA up in the first place, because then you can no longer find those ancestral ties, you can no longer find long-lost family members – so it defeats the whole purpose of why you originally gave up your data if you want to protect your privacy."
The spokesman for Young Voices says he wouldn't be surprised if other companies are sharing data or DNA.
"23andMe and Ancestry.com both say that they won't share anything with any law enforcement agency unless that agency comes to them with a warrant; and so far, 23andMe has held true to that," he continues. "They've received five requests without a warrant and they've turned down all five, but there's nothing legally binding about that. So they could immediately do a turn-face and hand over everything willy-nilly."
King shares these concerns in an article for The American Conservative. He doubts whether customers read the terms of agreement from these companies.
"It's probably just like the terms of service you get from Apple before you buy an iPhone or any other company that takes your data," he explains. "Most people are not reading through thousands or hundreds of pages to find out what's going on with their data …
"Sure, some of that falls upon us," he acknowledges, "but when it gets to the point where companies are sharing things with law enforcement [or] with the feds without a warrant, that's when it really starts to become a problem."