Over a million Americans have volunteered their DNA to genealogy databases and we learn from today’s Delaware County Daily Times that a lot of that DNA is made public and is being used to catch criminals even if that criminal didn’t submit their own DNA. All it takes is for a close relative to submit their DNA and a murder can be solved like in the Lancaster, PA case in the Daily Times today.

I would never consider voluntarily giving up my DNA, but as a black man, the only company that it would make sense to give it to would be African Ancestry – not to be confused with Ancestry.com.

African Ancestry is geared toward the African American community. Comparing against a database of thousands of maternal and paternal lineages in 40 countries of the African continent, African Ancestry looks back between 500 and 2,000 years into the consumers’ DNA data to find their ancestral roots. After taking the cheek swab test and waiting between six and eight weeks, people can expect to receive an analysis of their African family with at least 85% of accuracy and reconnect with their ethnic past.

What makes African Ancestry different are many things:

  • It’s 100% black owned with black reseachers.
  • They were the first out the block by years doing genealogy from DNA.
  • They have the largest database of African lineages (33,000 across 40 countries) compared to the others who only focus on the western regions of Africa where slaves were known to be captured.
  • They specify your African ethnic group.
  • They don’t research or sell your DNA.

There are a few other more popular and less expensive services like Ancestry.com and 23 and Me. They’ve gathered a lot of European DNA data and are better suited for whites to identify genealogy.

There are some companies that make their DNA pubic. Others sell it. But can any of these companies refuse to give up the DNA they collect if the law demands it from them?
Buried deep in their terms of service you’ll sort of find their answers. I’m not going to identify which is which, but here are how two of these companies say they handle a request for your DNA if they law came a-knocking:

Company 1
We may share your Personal Information if we believe it is reasonably necessary to:
Comply with valid legal process (e.g., subpoenas, warrants)…
If we are compelled to disclose your Personal Information to law enforcement, we will do our best to provide you with advance notice, unless we are prohibited under the law from doing so. In the interest of transparency, we produce a Transparency Report where we list the number of valid law enforcement requests for user data across all our sites.

Company 2
…the Company may make a disclosure containing Customer Confidential Information without the consent of the Customer, only to the extent such disclosure is required by law, rule, regulation or government or court order or as reasonably advised by the Company’s legal counsel in good faith. In the event that any such disclosure is necessary, the Company will use its commercially reasonable efforts to provide such Customer with fourteen (14) days prior written notice of any such required disclosure.

Do what you want with your DNA. Just know that it’s likely going to be shared, researched, made public, and potentially responsible for cousin Fred getting arrested.

scientist with test tube and dna molecule