Liked DNA tracing sites can reveal dark family secrets — as well as your genetic background by Gary Nunn (ABC)

Australia’s adoption sector has been imploring online DNA platforms to work with them, but so far such calls have received a tepid response.

“They treat DNA matching as a straightforward scientific event,” says Fiona Cameron from The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Resource Centre.

“People are buying them as gifts for a 40th birthday, and the recipients then feel compelled to do it.”

It overlooks the complex and emotional task of connecting with an unknown family, remarks Fiona, who adds that she has heard of people discovering they were adopted when they thought they had been raised by their biological parents.

Liked How DNA ancestry testing can change our ideas of who we are (The Conversation)

The bigger picture that’s emerging from DNA ancestry testing is that we’ve underestimated the extent of mixing between ancestral groups throughout human history.

Looking at the pie chart might give you the impression that there are discrete borders within you and boundaries between your different ancestries, but as Aeromexico so eloquently put it, “there are no borders within us”.

Bookmarked Planning to give 23andMe or AncestryDNA kits this Christmas? Read this first. by Lisa Schencker (

Are DNA test kits good presents? Genetic tests can give a lot of answers, but also raise serious questions.

It feels like DNA is just the next goldmine of ‘big data’ to be scrapped (see Spotify and culture). The world of things makes so much possible, but I wonder what happens when everyone has been mapped and we cannot take it back.


Consideration before wrapping up the kits as gifts: privacy concerns. 23andMe raised eyebrows earlier this year when pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline announced that it had invested $300 million in 23andMe as part of a collaboration aimed at developing new medications using 23andMe’s data. The companies plan to share in the proceeds from any new medications or treatments that come out of the partnership.

Bookmarked Your DNA Is Not Your Culture by Sarah Zhang (The Atlantic)

A Spotify playlist tailored to your DNA is the latest example of brands cashing in on people’s search for identity.

Sarah Zhang discusses Spotify’s move to team up with AncestryDNA to provide richer results. To me, the strength of Spotify is big data, whether it be in choice or collections. Through the use of algorithms this data can uncover some interesting and sometimes trivial patterns, but the move to inject ancestory into the mix surely is stretching it too far?


If this were simply about wearing kilts or liking Ed Sheeran, these ads could be dismissed as, well, ads. They’re just trying to sell stuff, shrug. But marketing campaigns for genetic-ancestry tests also tap into the idea that DNA is deterministic, that genetic differences are meaningful. They trade in the prestige of genomic science, making DNA out to be far more important in our cultural identities than it is, in order to sell more stuff.

DNA-testing companies are careful not to use racial categories in their tests, instead reporting breakdowns of specific regions around the world. And they say that their tests are meant to bring people together by highlighting shared ancestry and challenging the idea that people are “pure.” I don’t doubt that DNA tests have sparked meaningful explorations of family history for some people and filled in the blanks for others whose histories were lost to slavery and colonialism. I do doubt that a DNA test will solve racism.

It’s a nice message. But it elides history. Mixed ancestry does not necessarily mean a harmonious coexistence, past or future. African Americans have, on average, 24 percent European ancestry. To take a genetic-ancestry test is to confront a legacy of rape and slavery—perhaps to even recognize one’s own existence as the direct result of it. There is a way to use genetics and genealogy to uncover injustices and properly account for them. The 23andMe-sponsored podcast Spit, for instance, has featured some nuanced conversations about race. But it’s not through feel-good ads that paper over the past.

via Audrey Watters

Listened Golden State Killer: the end of DNA privacy? Chips with Everything podcast by Jordan Erica Webber;Danielle Stephens from the Guardian

US investigators recently tracked down the suspect of a 40-year-old murder case after uploading DNA to a genealogy website. Jordan Erica Webber weighs up the pros of finding ancestors with the cons of selling privacy

Jordan Erica Webber talks to Prof Charles Tumosa of the University of Baltimore, Prof Denise Syndercombe-Court of King’s College and Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center. This is a challenging conversation and comes back to notions of ‘informed consent’.

Maggie Koerth-Baker discusses changes in data arguing that we need to stop seeing privacy as a ‘personal’ thing:

Experts say these examples show that we need to think about online privacy less as a personal issue and more as a systemic one. Our digital commons is set up to encourage companies and governments to violate your privacy. If you live in a swamp and an alligator attacks you, do you blame yourself for being a slow swimmer? Or do you blame the swamp for forcing you to hang out with alligators?