The Data Concerns Behind Blackstone's Whopping $4.7 Billion Acquisition Of AncestryDNA
AncestryDNA is one of the most popular and well-known DNA testing companies available in today’s testing marketplace. You have probably seen their commercials, have a family member who has submitted one of their at-home DNA testing kits, or perhaps even taken one yourself.
This popular testing company is garnering attention as of late due to its recent acquisition by Blackstone, a private equity firm, for a truly shocking $4.7 billion. While having AncestryDNA sold to a private equity firm might just seem like another acquisition, many people are questioning Blackstone’s intentions and wondering what they plan to do with all the personal user data AncestryDNA has collected.
Privacy issues concerning DNA testing companies have become more relevant as at-home testing kits have gained popularity. Keep reading to learn more about Ancestry and this acquisition, what it might mean for you, and how to safely choose a DNA testing company.
History Of Ancestry
Where we come from, who we are related to, and how we got where we are some of the most fundamental and frequently asked questions. Recognizing this need to learn more about the past, Ancestry got its start in 1996 as a website for users to learn about their genealogy while distributing the tools for users to begin tracing their ancestry.
Nearly 10 years after its founding, Ancestry expanded its services to include DNA testing. As technology advanced, Ancestry was able to offer reasonably priced at-home DNA testing kits. These kits empowered users to dig deeper into their ethnicity and heritage to discover more personalized and specific results based on DNA analysis.
As more and more DNA testing companies joined the market, Ancestry has had to keep up with consumer demand. In an effort to remain competitive, the company recently launched screening for hereditary conditions. This means that users can now gain valuable medical insights, percentages about their ethnicities, view migration patterns of ancestors, connect with living relatives, build a family tree, and much more thanks to the platform’s offerings.
Your DNA Privacy And Ancestry
So, what type of information does Ancestry collect from its users? The data can be understood in two different types:
- Personal data: This includes your email address, name, and any other information a user may upload to their website
- Genetic information: This refers to the data collected from DNA samples and would include matches and estimates
Once the news of Blackstone’s acquisition was announced to the public, users took to social channels wanting to know how this affected their data and privacy. Ancestry responded to users on Twitter and stated that its consumer privacy and data protections would remain unchanged under Blackstone’s ownership.
Privacy Issues Around DNA And Legislation
Due to the critical information that can be gained from a DNA analysis including your predisposition to disease or other critical information regarding your health and background, the need for legislation to protect user data has grown.
In response to this growing demand, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) in 2008 in an effort to prevent certain types of genetic discrimination. GINA specifically prohibits insurers from using user genetic information for underwriting purposes. It also applies to employers and prevents them from using genetic information during hiring and promotional decisions.
Genetic testing can be life-saving and allow individuals to take preventative measures to protect their health. GINA is one example of important legislation that enables people to still feel comfortable pursuing at-home DNA testing without worrying about any unwanted consequences in terms of their insurance policy, employment, or otherwise.
How to Safely Take a DNA Test
It is also suggested that users stick with well-known companies as they tend to be more transparent about their data usage policies.
Understanding the associated risks with taking a DNA test is essential given it can influence which company you choose to go with. Do your research, and be sure to find the right testing company that you feel comfortable with and enjoy as you begin your DNA testing journey.