When I began my genetic genealogical work I did a great deal of research about the privacy protocols offered by each company. I determined some companies like 23andme were not for me! The same is true for MyHeritage. These companies seem to prefer an open source sort of thinking. I am the polar opposite.
I was going to be asking the eldest members of my family to submit DNA kits for me and I had to know it was safe.
Well, that was nine years ago and all is well when it comes to privacy. I now manage over 100 kits and have helped to get approximately 2000 submitted. The work is far from finished though!
This month, last week, there was a change in privacy policies at FTDNA.com I wanted to to share with all.
FTDNA alerted all kit owners that they were going to start accepting some DNA kits from Law Enforcement. Many of you may have read or watched a segment where companies like GEDMATCH and ANCESTRY and 23andme all used by a professional genealogist to help solve crimes. Because every lab has their own protocols, and all of those sites/companies have you surrender your information to them there was no notification needed.
FTDNA is different. They care about privacy as much as I do! And I appreciate it. And the kits we submit are ours. We own them. When you submit a kit there is even a beneficiary form provided. I recommend everyone who has submitted a kit be sure and give ID and password to at least three people and let each know about the other.
During the last two years I have lost three people who provided kits for my work. In one of those cases, there is a problem and I am unable to resolve it. WHY? Because the sister of the man who did the kit changed the password and email contact when she had computer problems and she neglected to share the particulars with me before she died suddenly last November.
We had been research partners for eight years. I had helped her isolate and identify her Underwood Grandma’s parents. And I was actively trying to isolate her line back to Maryland. We normally spoke only a few times a year and her passing was a blow.
I reached out to her son, the person who was executor of her estate and so far have not heard back from him.
When I was notified by FTDNA of the change in privacy protocols the notification made it clear that if the kit originated in Europe those kits would be automatically OPTED OUT of participating with kits submitted by Law Enforcement.
However for my kits I had to log into each one and OPT OUT on my own. I wondered WHY FTDNA did not automatically OPT OUT all of us and then allow anyone who wants to OPT IN. Why did people from outside of the USA get better privacy protocols? It is because they have to follow USA laws too. So if we want that, it will be up to CONGRESS to make it happen. Something to think about and possibly contact your Congressmen and Senators! I plan to do it.
I wish I had heard back from the son about that one kit. FTDNA gave me the steps the executor needs to take to resolve this. I wonder if he or anyone is actually monitoring that kit? I know the lady who did the kit for me would have wondered her kit to be OPTED OUT.
To opt out here are the steps:
Log into your account and go to you dashboard. What you see is the dashboard. You will see in gold “MANAGE PERSONAL INFORMATION”. CLICK on IT.
This will open a new page called your ACCOUNT SETTING PAGE. It looks like this. You will see PRIVACY & SHARING and your curser will show you it is a link to a new page. CLICK ON IT.
This will carry you to a page titled PRIVACY & SHARING. You will see a toggle button that will allow you to OPT OUT of your kit communicating with Law Enforcement kits. When you first sign in you will see the button toggled to the far right. This is the OPT IN position. When you move it to the left you are OPTED OUT.
I am choosing to OPT OUT where all of my kits go and I urge others to do the same. I believe we all should have been OPTED OUT in the first place! The European Union’s Data Protection Rule helped folks in Europe have more privacy than USA folks apparently.
Of course this is a personal matter. I am following the promise I made. I asked elderly men to submit DNA kits for me to help me advance the early JORDAN work. And I do not want anything to distress any of them or their families.
It is a personal choice one must make. I made promises to protect the privacy of each person who did a kit for me. And I will continue to do this. This website does not include anything about anyone living. My work is all about the 1700s and before. And the DNA I am working with was offered to help with that particular work.
Finally, scroll down to where you see the title “FAMILY TREE SHARING”. BE SURE TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE SHARING ONLY WITH YOUR MATCHES. For some kits I found the default opens the door for anyone on FTDNA.com to see your pedigree work. While I am not sure how anyone who is not a match can see your pedigree aka FAMILY TREE, this must also be considered.
OPT OUT of matching with Law Enforcement kits
Limit your Family Tree Sharing to ONLY MATCHES
and you will be following basic research protocols and working with ONLY first party researchers who are also using genetic genealogy tests to advance their genealogy work.
This change in privacy protocols needs to change the way folks behave when they order kits from now on.
As soon as one receives their kit number and password, you need to sign in and follow the steps to opt out.
These two simple steps will ensure privacy is maintained from the start!