Genetic testing illuminates your past and present. By rubbing a cotton swab on the inside of your cheek and mailing it off to a company, you can learn which countries your ancestors came from. You can even pinpoint risk factors for different genetic conditions, which can help you make healthier decisions in the future.
Since genetic tests first became available to the public in 1996, they’ve boomed in popularity. You may have seen ads for Ancestry.com promising to connect you with previous generations. Beneath the lofty promises, though, is the cold, hard fact that Ancestry collects a ton of private information. It doesn’t sell your data, according to its privacy statement.
However, in 2020, a hedge fund called Blackstone Group bought Ancestry.com for $4.7 billion. Tap or click here for the full story — as well as how you can remove your data. In this guide, you’ll learn how to protect your privacy when using genetic testing sites.
Know your risks
Since genealogy websites collect so much data, their user database can be quite valuable in the corporate world. If you’ve listened to the Kim Komando Explains podcast, you know that data brokerage is a $200 billion industry. Tap or click here to listen to a podcast all about the ways companies buy your data.
It knows a lot about you, like:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Billing information
- Sign-in information for any third-party sign-in services you opted to use, like Google or Facebook
- DNA Data
- Information about your computer and mobile device, like your browser and IP address
Hackers can do a lot with this information. In 2017, they invaded Ancestry.com in a huge data breach, exposing the usernames, email addresses and passwords of 300,000 registered users. Tap or click here to find out how it happened and who was affected.
Of course, years have passed since then, and now new leaders are in charge. Still, though, it’s good to know about these risks before you dive in. But if you want to get a free trial, there’s a lot of great stuff the site has to offer.
How to make the most out of a free trial
Once you sign up for a 14-day trial, you have two weeks to take advantage of its enormous database. Although you don’t need a membership to create a family tree, you need to sign up to search historical records.
Memberships and DNA tests help you find potential relatives, or “DNA matches.” After forking over a few bucks, you can start searching historical records. One great perk is that you get access to family trees that other Ancestry.com members have put together.
You can find connections through “hints” or suggestions about possible family members. By digging around a bit, you could unearth familial ties you never heard of before. You could even get access to new historical records that enrich your knowledge of the past.
The site has records from over 80 countries. Some of its paperwork dates back to the 1200s. It’s easy to compile everything you find: Just record the data in your family tree to continue the search.
Now let’s move on to DNA testing. To be clear: An AncestryDNA test does not automatically come along with membership to the website. You’ll have to buy that separately — but once you do, the DNA test works in tandem with your membership to help you make the most out of the site’s many resources.
The site’s famous for its DNA testing … and for good reason!
Once you take an AncestryDNA test, you can learn more about your ethnicity, which is especially helpful for adoptees who want a fuller understanding of their ethnic makeup. You can also use this resource to connect with your biological family members.
Be careful, though: If you’re anything like David Berry, you may be in for the surprise of a lifetime. After learning an anonymous sperm donor helped his parents conceive, he signed up with Ancestry.com to discover more about his biological father. According to the New York Times, Berry uncovered at least 10 half-siblings from the same donor.
As it turns out, his donor wasn’t anonymous at all. The fertility doctor his mother visited decided to use his own sperm on her without consent. Thanks to DNA tests, many of these siblings have met each other and bonded over his shocking discovery.
How to cancel once it’s all over
So you took full advantage of your free membership. If you don’t want to buy a membership, you’ll want to cancel before the 14 days are up. Here’s how:
- Head to Ancestry.com.
- Tap or click Account Settings.
- Scroll down to the Membership section.
- Select Cancel membership.
- Follow the on-screen directions to cancel.
If you want more details, you’re in luck. Here’s Ancestry.com’s guide to canceling a membership.