“A simple test can reveal an estimate of your ethnic mix… like if you’re Irish or Scandinavian, or both.”
For Guernsey his curiosity twisted to suspicion once he read the fine print. To proceed, he’d have to give ancestry a “perpetual, royalty-free worldwide transferable license” to use his DNA.
“That entire phrase: ‘perpetual royalty-free worldwide transferable,’ it sounds like they have left it open to do anything they want with it,” Guernsey said.
He was concerned the “transferable license” could put his family’s DNA in the hands of an insurance company that could later deny coverage.
“That’s not a crazy worry,” said Stanford University law professor Hank Greely.
Greely teaches and writes books about the intersection of bio-tech and the law. Greely says medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies routinely need DNA data to develop new products, and companies that have big DNA databases, like Ancestry, sell it to them.
“Some of them get a fair amount of their revenue by selling the analysis of your DNA,” Greely said.
I will bet some intel agency is scooping up the DNA results in a side deal that pays Ancestry hundreds of millions, if not billions. It is probably grabbed up by workers in the company who have been hired, Geek-Squad style, to burn it to thumb drives before it is anonymized, and forward it to their handlers. Add in familial matches, and they might be able to take your DNA off the stamp on the letter you wrote insulting Nancy Pelosi, figure out who your relatives are, and roughly where you are in the family tree. Figure out your uncle on one side is Dave Smith, one grandmother on the other side was Sarah Davis, and you are a male, and suddenly there are only a couple of people who will fit the bill of belonging to the spot where both those lines converge.
Ancestry was likely partly convinced to go along with it due to promises that nobody would ever find out, because the intel would never be used anywhere but behind the scenes to identify targets. You’ll never see it referenced anywhere, it will never be introduced to court, and everybody will deny it exists if challenged. You probably would have a hell of a time finding what corner of the government keeps the intel if you wanted to sue, and it might even only be on the servers of a private sector company – good luck figuring out which one.
Even though the chances of it being revealed one day were slim, Ancestry still went with the overly broad legal releases, just to make sure their asses were covered in the event an enraged populace ever decided to turn on all the entities which have colluded in any offensive monitoring of the US citizenry.
Privacy is an illusion these days. The big question is who it is at the top who feels it is so important to set up on the US citizenry behind the scenes, and why they view the citizenry as some sort of enemy threat to be controlled.