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How private is your genealogy test?

Posted at 7:55 AM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 23:10:35-05

PEWAUKEE -- Your holiday wish list may include a genealogy test kit. 

After swabbing your mouth, who has access to your DNA? 

You may have heard about police in California tracking down "The Golden State Killer" decades after his crimes, thanks to a genealogy website.

There are federal and state laws that already protect your genetic information from getting in the hands of health insurers.

Attorney Erin Fay explains why life insurance falls into a different category.

"It's a contract. They are private companies; it's not required to have life insurance," said Fay.

We looked closer at the privacy notices for the most well-known services: Ancestry DNA and 23andMe. A spokeswoman for Ancestry DNA tells us they do not share any of your information and adds, "If a customer wants to give their data to an insurance company, that is within their ability to do so."

23andMe can dig deeper into your personal DNA, showing if you are a carrier of more than 40 different conditions that include Parkinson's or Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease.

A spokesperson for 23andMe says they use a private lab but said, "We do not share any information with employers, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies or any public databases," and if you opt in to research, your DNA will be, "...stripped of any personally identifiable data."

Fay warns even if you choose to never get it done there are unforeseen worries.

"So perhaps you haven't done a 23andMe, but your brothers or sisters and cousins have, and they submit their DNA. You might be able to still be affected by other people's decisions," said Fay.

As for the darker side of DNA, could a detective get your hands on your profile? Ancestry DNA spokeswoman tells us they will only share a user's information if there has been a court warrant issued. 23andMe tells us they have had five law enforcement requests in 12 years and successfully stopped all of them from being released.