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A sale and privacy changes

AncestryDNA has two things going on that genealogists need to know about this fine Sunday morning.

A sale.

And some changes in the privacy terms and conditions that users have to go along with if they want to test with AncestryDNA and/or continue using the AncestryDNA service.

Let’s go with the easy one first.

On Sale!

AncestryDNA has an Independence Day Sale going on right now, through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, July 6th.

The price of an autosomal DNA test through AncestryDNA is down to $79, from the usual $99, for a 20% savings during the sale.

The ad for the sale says the offer does not include shipping costs or applicable taxes. But folks have found that using the coupon code FREESHIPDNA sometimes works to reduce the shipping costs if multiple kits are ordered at the same time.

So if you’ve been thinking about getting an AncestryDNA autosomal test done (an autosomal test, remember, is the cousin-finding test, the one that looks at the type of DNA we all inherit from both of our parents and that helps us find cousins to work with on our family histories1), now would be a good time to order.

Updated privacy terms and conditions

Privacy terms and conditions have been updated at AncestryDNA (and, by the way, at all of Ancestry’s other services, such as the main Ancestry.com site, Fold3.com and Newspapers.com).

ADNA.privacyThe privacy terms at AncestryDNA were updated 12 June 2015 and the changes affect “visitors and new users registering on the Website on or after June 12th, 2015, and … all users already registered on the Website on or after July 12th, 2015.”2

And the changes in those privacy terms are really very minor — but they incorporate a change from earlier this year that The Legal Genealogist (and everybody else) missed.

Now, a reminder: terms and conditions — terms of use — are “the limits somebody who owns something you want to see or copy or use puts on whether or not he’ll let you see or copy or use it.”3 In this case, the terms of use govern whether we can use the AncestryDNA service and, if we do, what rights we’re giving AncestryDNA.

As savvy online genealogists we all know that we should read every last word of the terms of use and understand them before we agree to them by using a website.

And as human beings in a technological age we still generally just click through because, after all, what choice do we have? If we want to use AncestryDNA — and we do — we have to agree to the changes.

So what are we agreeing to this time?

Nothing that’s a whole lot different from what we’ve agreed to in the past — though — again — there was a change earlier this year that we all missed.

Right from the very beginning, in its very first terms of use, the AncestryDNA service’s terms appear to have permitted it to take our data and our information, strip off personally-identifying parts like our names and our addresses, aggregate it with data from other customers and use it to “research human genetic diversity.”4 While the original 2013 terms made it sound like that could happen only if we also signed a specific consent agreement, reading the document as a whole, that’s not so clear.

That’s because those original terms also gave AncestryDNA very broad rights to use non-personal information: “Because non-personal information does not personally identify you, we may use such non-personal information for any purpose. In addition, we reserve the right to share such non-personal information, with our Group Companies and with other third parties, for any purpose.”5

Then in February of this year, AncestryDNA amended its terms in a change that, frankly, I missed completely. The February change amplified the previous terms to include that AncestryDNA was allowed to conduct research to “internally analyze Users’ results to make discoveries in the study of genealogy, anthropology, evolution, languages, cultures, medicine, and other topics. In addition, if you voluntarily agreed to the Research Project Informed Consent we may use the Results and other information for the purposes of collaborative research and publication and in accordance with the Informed Consent.”6

That February 2015 privacy statement also said:

Subject to the restrictions described in this Privacy Statement and applicable law, we may use personal information for any reasonable purpose related to the business, including to communicate with you, to provide you information about Ancestry’s and AncestryDNA’s products and services, to respond to your requests, to update our product offerings, to improve the content and User experience on the AncestryDNA Website, to let you know about offers of interest from AncestryDNA or Ancestry, and to prepare and perform demographic, benchmarking, advertising, marketing, and promotional studies.7

So… since February 20th, we’ve all been bound by these new terms (and yes, you can delete your test and the results, but subject to the caveat that anything you’ve shared with others could have been copied and may be kept by those others).

Now… is this a change worth getting up in arms over?

Ummmm… no.

To provide us with accurate analyses of our own DNA results, any DNA testing company should “internally analyze Users’ results to make discoveries in the study of genealogy, anthropology, evolution, languages, cultures, medicine, and other topics.” The more internal analysis of user data that’s undertaken, the better the matching algorithms, ethnicity estimates and the like may be.

As long as the use of data outside of a testing company is controlled by “the Research Project Informed Consent … in accordance with the Informed Consent,” there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a testing company using its customer data to produce a better result for its customers.

Sure, that should have been in the terms of use from the outset, but it really is a pretty basic concept, isn’t it? How do you know you’re doing it right unless you’re constantly reviewing your customer data to doublecheck whether your analysis is standing the test of time?

So… the current changes. What about them? What actually has changed in this latest round of privacy terms updates is — to coin a phrase — not much:

• The terms now clarify that any comments you post on the website are part of the information that may be read, collected, and used by others.

• The terms now specify that one of the things AncestryDNA can use your personal information for is “to help you and others discover more about your family.”

• The terms note that there will be a “‘DNA Alert’ setting that will allow Ancestry to send you notifications for genetic matches, profile updates, and other DNA-related informational alerts.”

And that’s really pretty much all that’s changed in this latest round of changes at AncestryDNA.

We’ll go over the overall changes at Ancestry.com and other non-DNA websites run by Ancestry tomorrow… and those current changes are minor, too.


SOURCES

  1. See ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki), “Autosomal DNA,” rev. 30 June 2015.
  2. AncestryDNA Privacy Statement, June 12, 2015, AncestryDNA (http://dna.ancestry.com/ : accessed 4 July 2015).
  3. Judy G. Russell, “Reprise: a terms of use primer,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 29 Apr 2015 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 4 July 2015).
  4. AncestryDNA Privacy Statement, March 20, 2013, AncestryDNA (http://dna.ancestry.com/ : accessed 4 July 2015).
  5. Ibid.
  6. AncestryDNA Privacy Statement, February 20, 2015, AncestryDNA (http://dna.ancestry.com/ : accessed 4 July 2015).
  7. Ibid.
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