DNA Testing: What You Need to Know

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DNA testing to uncover your ancestry genealogy has exploded over the past few years, with many companies offering consumers the ability to get a better glimpse into their genealogical past. The process is simple – a kit is mailed to you, with a small tube where you insert sample of your saliva. Send it on back the company for processing, and typically within 4-6 weeks, you’re DNA will be sequenced and cross-referenced with populations across the globe, painting a complete picture of your heritage. This service appeals to many people including adopted individuals, people from immigrant families, or those who want to know more about their no longer living ancestors.

Right now, the current leading service in DNA testing is AncestryDNA, with the largest database size and quickest result time. AncestryDNA is also the most affordable service, starting at $99. Reviews have shown that AncestryDNA delivers easy to understand data, and provides an easy-to-navigate interface for you to explore your family history. While you’ll be able to see a rundown of your genetic ancestry, you won’t be able to connect with family member matches until you join the subscription service. You will, however, be able to see usernames and profile pictures of people that have also used the service.

So how accurate are these testing kits? Well, the top services use what is called a Autosomal DNA test, which focuses on both the patrilineal and matrilineal sides of your family. This means it can trace all of your family lines, allowing for a more comprehensive data set regarding your genetic history. In 2 tests done by Jacob Schwarzer, a student at CSU San Marcos, both results from two different DNA testing services came back with similar results. “While the percentages were slightly off, they both identified the same regions where I can trace my genetic heritage,” Schwarzer said.

DNA testing provides an amazing service for those who are curious about their heritage, but there have been several concerns regarding the privacy of customers. Your DNA is precious information that is sought after by pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and even law enforcement. The moment you send in a sample of your DNA, you risk losing the privacy of your genetic data. Most DNA testing services have privacy policies, but it is important to read these thoroughly so you are aware of who has access to your personal information. Consider this, in the AncestryDNA privacy policy states:

“By submitting DNA to AncestryDNA, you grant AncestryDNA and the Ancestry Group Companies a royalty-free, worldwide, sub-licensable, transferable license to host, transfer, process, analyze, distribute, and communicate your Genetic Information for the purposes of providing you products and services, conducting Ancestry’s research and product development, enhancing Ancestry’s user experience, and making and offering personalized products and services.”

This is alarming because what this means is that they own the rights to your DNA and they can use it how they please – whether it be for research, product development, or other purposes. While DNA testing for ancestry is still an incredible service that can appeal to many people. It is however essential that you fully understand what you are getting into before consenting to having your DNA stored by a company.

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