mp
Arrow

How to delete your DNA from companies database?

Author image
Richard Hill
How to delete your DNA from companies database?

As the trend of gifting unknown heritage wears off, more and more people are saying no to genetic testing companies and are demanding their data be removed from such third-party databases.

Though required by law to remove this data upon request, some of these companies tend to make it difficult for you to do so - whether it’s by demanding a lengthy phone call or hiding the opt-out icon on the website. That’s not to say that all practice this way, however, as brands like MyHeritage make it simple.

Handing over what’s essentially the essence of yourself to a money-driven organization should always be done with caution. Sure, you can learn about distant relatives you never knew you had, but you’re giving up your most personal data and in some cases, to companies that intend to use it snidely.

Keep reading to learn how to remove your data from the most popular DNA registries and testing sites.

Why You’d Want to Delete Your DNA

Some of the active providers for DNA profiling make up a lot of their profit by selling your data to third-party companies and advertisers. And in most cases, we unknowingly sign up for it, whether via deception on the provider’s part or laziness on ours.

Without your knowledge, your DNA could be spread to the provider’s partners around the world and used as part of their research.

While this might not sound too bad, there’s a lack of transparency on the provider’s part about how your DNA is used and whether it’ll be used for research that you ethically and morally agree with. It is your DNA after all, you should know where it ends up.

23andMe, for example, sells data to pharmaceutical companies and random, anonymized access. 

It’s questionable whether our privacy is something that should be entrusted to these companies at all. It might be in their policies to keep all information confidential and held private, but that doesn’t protect your data from hackers who target these databases.

Having your DNA compromised is an even more severe breach than having your credit card details stolen. Back in 2018, MyHeritage faced a breach that saw the data of over 90 million users compromised.

It’s becoming known that the police are gaining access to these databases to support their investigations. It’s fair to say that while some people might not have a problem with it, nobody agreed to this use of their data and they’re all powerless against them doing it.

The only solution at that point is to opt-out entirely which, for some customers, is regrettable.   Judges in the US that have agreed to such warrants set a worrying precedent on the privacy front.

How to Delete it?

The way to opt-out might differ depending on the provider you went with and what you agreed to.

If, for example, you agreed to let them share your data or for it to be used in research, your sample can only be destroyed once the research is complete. It may become impossible to know where it ended up but you can always have the original sample destroyed and your data removed from the provider’s database.

23andMe

  • Go to ‘Account Settings’
  • Access data preferences
  • Alternatively, 23andMe customers can also call support for assistance

Customers can delete their data by heading into account settings or giving their customer care team a call. If you wish to have your test sample destroyed, you’ll need to check what permissions you gave in your initial contract. Most samples will be destroyed after analysis unless you agreed for yours to be stored in a laboratory for third-party testing.

Since 23andMe is known for selling customer data, you might want to at least check and modify your permissions. It won’t prevent current or past research but it will stop your DNA from being used in the future.

HomeDNA

  • To delete all permissions:
  • Go to ‘Account Settings’
  • Access data preferences

HomeDNA users can also request their data and sample be destroyed by accessing their account or calling customer support.

By default, all samples are stored for a minimum of 6-8 weeks for non-legal and up to six months for legal testing, unless a later period is agreed. HomeDNA will want to hold onto your data to ensure payment is made and all regulations are met, but failure to opt-out once your transaction is complete will mean your data is automatically destroyed at a random period after seven years.

If you’re feeling concerned about your privacy now, you might prefer to do this manually rather than wait a minimum of seven years.

MyHeritage

  • To delete generic data:
  • Go to ‘Settings’
  • Then ‘Manage DNA Kits Section’ 
  • Adjust your data preferences:
  • Go to ‘Privacy’
  • Then ‘ My DNA Preferences’
  • Customers can also call and email customer support to enact any changes

MyHeritage customers can either email, call, or make the changes they need to from their own account page in just a few minutes. Just go to the ‘Manage DNA Kits Section’ to delete your genetic data and contact customer support to have your test sample destroyed.

Changing how your data is used can also be done through their website - just go to ‘My DNA Preferences’ under the ‘Privacy’ tab to make any adjustments.

No doubt if you agreed when signing up that it’ll have already been used for research, but changing this will prevent it from being used again. Whether any of your data is then still stored or not is unclear.

Ancestry DNA

Adjust your data preferences:

  • Select the ‘DNA Tab’
  • Click on ‘Your DNA Results Summary’
  • Hit the ‘Settings’ tab
  • ‘Delete Test Results’

Deleting your DNA:

  • Ancestry requires that you call its member service department to remove DNA from their database

Ancestry DNA proves to be one of the most reliable names out there for taking control of your data. Customers have to call to delete their DNA and they can handle all other options on there too, but what sets Ancestry apart is that permissions on data usage and preferences can all be handled in the account portal.

Not all brands are prepared to leave those decisions up to their customers and especially not make them so easily available.

To adjust your data preferences, simply head to ‘Your DNA Results Summary’ through the ‘Settings’ tab and hit the icon ‘Delete Test Results’. It’s here you can also adjust whether you permit the company to sell your data on to be used for marketing, research, and more.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA takes a somewhat frustrating approach in that all queries and account alterations have to be made over the phone. The same applies if you want to delete your entire account too.

It’s hardly practical and seems almost tactful, but assuming you never gave permission for the distribution of your DNA, then it shouldn’t take long to have your data destroyed.

Always make sure you know what you’re agreeing to before signing, especially if it’s your DNA on the line.

  • To make any changes to data or your DNA that’s on file, FTDNA requires this to be done via a call to their support team. This also goes with deleting your account.