Many people who take at-home DNA tests to learn more about their family tree don’t realize that their data could be shared for other purposes. Consumer DNA testing companies share users’ data with law enforcement, drug makers, and even app developers.
The implications of privacy around genetic information came into full view when police used a genealogy website to track down a suspect in the decades-old case of the Golden State Killer. In February, FamilyTreeDNA, an early pioneer of the rapidly growing market for consumer genetic testing, granted the FBI access to its database of nearly 2 million genetic profiles.
Margo Georgiadis, president and CEO of Ancestry, said her company does not cooperate with law enforcement unless compelled by a court order. In 2018, she says, the company had 10 requests from law enforcement. But those inquiries were related to credit card fraud, not genetics.
“There’s no question that in the industry as a whole, other actors have chosen to go down a different path and not meet the highest standards,” Georgiadis said Monday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. “Consumers need to understand they do have a choice, and that there are real differences between companies.”