Monday, December 30, 2019

Some kinds of privacy may be gone forever

Lots of family secrets are revealed by DNA analysis, and it may no longer be possible to keep those secrets.  That is part of the argument made by Dr. Julia Creet, in an interview published at Bill of Health under the title "The End of Privacy?"

Dr. Julia Creet: I made the statement that any idea we had about privacy is over in response to a number of troubling trends in genetic genealogy. DTC genetic tests have revealed long-held family secrets, biological parents and siblings of adoptees, and the identities of sperm and egg donors. In each case, the question of the right of the searcher trumped the rights of those who wanted their privacy protected. In a few cases, sperm donors have sued for invasion of privacy. What these cases show is that even if we think we are protected by the privacy provisions of donor agreements or closed adoptions, genetic tests can leap over those privacy barriers. Many genealogists have declared that there will be no more family secrets in the future. So, family privacy is a thing of the past, which may or may not be a good thing. On a larger scale, law enforcement use of DTC genetic testing databases has demonstrated that data uploaded for one purpose can be used in the future for a completely unanticipated purpose. Without the ability to predict future uses of this information, we cannot put a privacy policy in place that will anticipate all the unforeseen future uses. I think the most telling cases in the last few weeks are the recent warrant that allowed law enforcement access to the GEDmatch database even though most users had opted out of having their results included in searches, and the rather frightening report for Peter Ney about the ease of malware intrusions on genetic genealogy databases.

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