Friday 14 July 2017

An update to the AncestryDNA kit management system

AncestryDNA have announced that the process for activating kits will change from 18th July onwards. Up until now it has been possible to add multiple kits for your relatives to your own DNA account. The disadvantage of this process is that the person taking the test does not have full control of their own DNA and data, and there is the potential for misuse. Under the new system every person who takes a DNA test will be required to set up their own Ancestry account. They can then choose to assign sharing roles to their friends and family members. There are different levels of sharing which are explained in this graphic provided by AncestryDNA.

As can be seen, if Manager status is granted, you will be able to have full access to your relative's account and do everything that was previously possible when sharing kits under a single account. The notable and important exception is that the owner of the DNA sample is the only one who can remove Manager status. This means that the person who has taken the test will always have the right to access his or own data. Unfortunately we have sometimes had cases in the genetic genealogy community where a kit manager has blocked the tester from accessing his or her own account. This will ensure that such situations will not arise in the future.

There are no extra costs involved. If you already have an Ancestry subscription and your relatives are sharing with you it will still be possible to benefit from all the additional features available to subscribers for the kits you manage on behalf of your relatives (eg, the ability to view the full trees of their matches, and the ability to see features such as the shared ancestor hints and DNA Circles).

AncestryDNA have written a blog post with information about the changes which you can read here. This post has been updated since I read it late last night to provide clarification of points raised in the comments.

This change brings AncestryDNA into line with Family Tree DNA, who already require each customer to have their own individual account. It also ensures that AncestryDNA comply with the Genetic Genealogy Standards which state that "Genealogists believe that testers have an inalienable right to their own DNA test results and raw data, even if someone other than the tester purchased the DNA test."

I don't know what motivated this change but it seems likely that AncestryDNA were influenced by the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will apply throughout the European Union and also in the UK from 25th May 2018 onwards. For further details on the new data protection laws see the leaflet from the Information Commissioner's Office on Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): 12 Steps to Take Now.

A key tenet of data protection legislation is that the individual has right of access to his or her own data. By ensuring that each person has their own AncestryDNA account it will be much easier to ensure that this happens. Although Ancestry is not required to comply with European legislation for customers outside Europe it seems sensible to provide their international customers with the same levels of data protection as their European customers.

Further reading


Unknown said...

This is a lawyer solution to a non-existent problem. How am I going to have my great aunt who does not own a computer, doesn't have email, is not fluent in English and lives 1000 miles away get an Ancestry account, register a DNA kit and get it into Ancestry? I see lots of zombie accounts created to work around this BS. Ancestry is covering their backside and making family researchers resort to misrepresentation to work around this new system.

Debbie Kennett said...

I don't see why you can't create an account for your aunt, make yourself a manager on her kit and handle the whole process for her. It's just important that you get fully informed consent from your great aunt before testing her.

As I said in my blog post, I know personally of cases where people have been locked out of their own DNA accounts. This is a real problem. This change will ensure that doesn't happen.

PhairMason said...

Today, a DNA test activated on someone else's account is not available to the donor unless he or she sets up an account and the test administrator allows them access. I see this as a step to ensure that the donor has ownership of his or her DNA results. If you or the donor sets up an account and the donor doesn't use it, that's the donor's choice--as it should be.

Debbie Kennett said...

That's quite right. it is vitally important that anyone providing a DNA sample does so with the appropriate consent and has the ability to access their own account if they wish to do so.

Unknown said...

Can a DNA test be attached to a free Ancestry guest account?

Debbie Kennett said...


Yes you can attach a DNA test to a free Ancestry account.

-McD- said...

Will it be possible to move a kit that I manage to another account if the tester for that kit creates their own Ancestry account?

Debbie Kennett said...

McD. I think you'll need to ask AncestryDNA that question.

Rosa palustris said...

The statement about how Family Tree DNA handles things is misleading. Each kit has its own sign-on, but the contact/ manager can be someone else. There are many of us who manage kits for multiple relatives... including elderly relatives.

Debbie Kennett said...

Rosa, The contact manager for an AncestryDNA can still be someone other than the person who takes the test. Now each new kit ordered at AncestryDNA requires the creation of a separate account. The main difference between FTDNA and Ancestry is that at FTDNA you can have the same e-mail address on multiple kits whereas you need a separate e-mail address for each kit at AncestryDNA.

Leake said...

As Debbie and most others must know the marketing characterization of these added 'benefits' do not fully describe the terms and conditions each account holder will agree to in order to effect these changes. From an intellectual property point of view there are pluses and minuses that should be disclosed by Ancestry along with these new procedures. Ownership of one's own test results are not real unless the owner retains the inherent right to agree or disagree to each incremental use of those data. The blanket perpetual, royalty-free license to use those data do not pass the smell test.

Unknown said...

I am going to in part echo Erik Nielsen's comments. I currently have access to 12 relatives and my wifes results. I do NOT want to have to open 12 accounts. That would only bloat the number of memberships that ancestry then could use to represent their levels of members to sell advertising or investors etc. I also do not want to keep up with 12 usernames, 12 passwords, 12 email accounts...... That is exactly what I would have to do under the new scenario to get around fraudulently I might add the new rule. I have a great number of test from people who would NEVER open an account much less get on a computer. I screen shot for them or when I am visiting them I make sure they get to see all the results including the matches.

Now the flip side is that there is most definitely a need for this rule though it will only affect a small number of users. I would hate to see someone who has given their ok for the test, supplied the sample, and then not be able to view their own results. That is ludicrous. But there has to be a middle ground here so that we don't have to be fraudulent and the protections for owner can still exist. Maybe some sort of form that can be uploaded to Ancestry signed by both owner and host and also a form of guest access to any owner required should they choose to exercise the right?

Debbie Kennett said...

Leake, If someone is going to encourage a friend or relative to test on their behalf then its incumbent upon them to explain the terms and conditions of the test before they get the DNA test done. There is a two-step consent process at AncestryDNA. You have to agree to having your DNA processed and aggregated by AncestryDNA because that is how they deliver your results to you and also develop new features for the test. Testers are also invited to opt in to the Human Genetic Diversity Project but you do not have to agree to join this project in order to test.

There was a big fuss earlier this year when an American lawyer published a click bait fake news article that attracted a lot of attention. AncestryDNA updated their terms and conditions to clarify the situation. See their blog post here:

Ultimately if people are worried about sharing their DNA with third parties they shouldn't be testing at all.

Debbie Kennett said...

Jeff, The access you have to your relative's accounts will not change under the new system. It only applies to new testers.

You can sign up for a free Ancestry account and opt out of all the e-mails. Companies are required by law to have consent to send out mass mailings.

There's always going to be a risk when someone manages a DNA kit on behalf of a relative or friend. This seems to me to be a step in the right direction. If someone violates the AncestryDNA terms and conditions by fraudulently providing a sample without consent then presumably this will make it easier for Ancestry to take action and for the person to claim access to his own sample. Why should an owner require guest access to see his or her own results? The owner should have complete control over his own DNA. If someone is getting DNA from a friend or relative and managing the test on their behalf then I think it would be a good idea if they got the person to sign something in writing to give them permission to manage the kit on their behalf.

Kent J said...

You found 98% and 86% of your matches below 15cM and 10cM, respectively, to be false positive matches. These small cM matches also represent more distant MRCA matches, say 4th cousins or higher. Have you thought how looking how looking at ICW matches might affect these high false positive statistics? For example, if you looked at the ICW matches between you and a 5th cousin, would it be more likely or not to find true matches for these small cM matches?

By the way, I just uploaded a much faster macro for doing large match list comparisons.

Debbie Kennett said...

The false positive rate wasn't as high as that. If it's a false positive match it can't be used for cousin matching. If the match is real it's far more likely to be a distant match than a close match.

I don't know of anyone who has done a study of ICW matches. Ann Turner did an interesting exercise to investigate whether or not sharing a match with a parent made it more likely to be real. You can see the results in this Facebook post:

There is no real substitute for phasing.

I shall have a look at my matches again in the New Year. There's too much to be done for now with Christmas just a week away.