What information does Ancestry® have about non-Ancestry users?
Ancestry empowers journeys of personal discovery to enrich lives. The fundamental premise of Ancestry is to allow users to research their past and ancestors and to collaborate with other users, enabling shared research and richer discoveries about their ancestors. This includes providing users with the ability to build virtual family trees via our platform and providing access to a wealth of historical records on Ancestry’s Services (as defined in Ancestry’s Terms and Conditions) to give users context and rich stories. Over 30 years’ of investment and research has gone into the Ancestry family history service to create the world’s largest online collection of family history records and meet the market demand for the genealogical research services that Ancestry provides.
There are two sources of information about non-Ancestry users on our site: (i) information users have uploaded into their trees like photos, names, dates of birth, places, significant events, stories and other content (referred to as User Provided Content in our Terms and Conditions) and (ii) records Ancestry has obtained from third parties (e.g. records from archives or maintained by local authorities, such as birth, marriage or death records, records of military service, or census details) that may relate to living individuals, both users and non-Ancestry users. Privacy is a top priority for Ancestry so we apply controls to help ensure that this information is protected.
The Ancestry platform allows users to create family trees to display familial connections in a user-friendly way. Ancestry users may also post additional Personal Information (as defined in our Privacy Statement) about themselves in their Ancestry user profile that is viewable by other Ancestry users. This User Provided Content is added by users while doing genealogical research and capturing and sharing their discoveries.
User Provided Content is similar to postings generated by users on any platform where people share information with others such as message boards or social media. As Ancestry is in the business of facilitating family history research and the building of family trees, it considers the processing of the data of living people added by users on its Services to be in its legitimate interests.
Ancestry allows its users to determine whether to make their own trees viewable by other Ancestry users (our “public” tree setting) to help other users find information about their ancestors and for the wider community benefit across the platform (users can glean additional insights that may assist in their own family history research). The collaboration with other family history researchers is one of Ancestry’s primary value drivers. Ancestry also permits its users to choose to make their trees private.
When trees are publicly viewable, it is easier to find ancestors or relatives using the Ancestry sites. Ancestry users can also get in touch with other users via the website which helps with research and enables collaboration.
Ancestry strives, however, to protect living persons’ data through various controls. For example, when an Ancestry user adds a person to a tree, it is the Ancestry user who indicates whether the added person is living or deceased. If the Ancestry user selects that the added person is “living”, such living people are only visible to the tree owner and people the tree owner shares the tree with as “editor” or whom the tree owner authorizes to be able to view that tree’s living people. For any other user viewing that public tree, living persons are labeled as “Private”. Users can change their family tree settings at any time to make their entire tree private.
Genealogy can be a difficult and time-consuming pursuit, as the data necessary to establish connections and build family histories has historically been difficult to access and must be aggregated to unlock its value. As a result, Ancestry’s 30-plus year running investment helps users, archives, and society at large obtain the benefits of the record collections we have amassed, scanned, digitized, indexed, and made available through our Services. In addition, Ancestry provides digitisation and indexing services to archives to support and improve the maintenance, administration, and knowledge value of those archives to their owners/administrators. With Ancestry’s expertise and knowledge, the preservation of historical records that are often damaged and inaccessible are available to the wider public.
The vast majority of records on our Services relate to deceased individuals, which minimizes privacy concerns and the relevance of data protection legislation. However, some records may still contain information relating to living individuals; quite often this is information that has been made public by government institutions or published by other groups.
Similar to the data provided by Ancestry users through their family trees, Ancestry also relies on its legitimate interests to process personal data in records from archives and other sources. These records are acquired through our content acquisition team which purchases or licenses the rights to collect, hold, publish, and process archival content through Ancestry’s Services. Before we publish information, we consider a number of factors, including industry guidelines, rules, best practices, laws and regulations, and user needs, including ensuring that we are balancing individuals’ interests, rights and freedoms against other interests.
If you find information on our site about you or people in your household that you are concerned about and want to make a request for its deletion, click here for the best way to submit that request.
How does Ancestry protect non-Ancestry users’ DNA Data?
Ancestry does not have non-Ancestry user’s DNA in our AncestryDNA® database. You must be an Ancestry user and have taken an AncestryDNA test for Ancestry to have DNA data about you. Protecting the privacy of our users is very important. Since DNA test results typically belong to living people, here are some specific ways we protect users’ genetic data:
- Only users that have taken the AncestryDNA test are in the Ancestry DNA database. Ancestry does not allow for the uploading of DNA results from third party providers. Additionally, Ancestry provides for the full deletion of DNA test results, trees, and a user’s entire account through our privacy settings at any time.
- There is no “search” for people with DNA test results — For a person to see anyone else’s DNA results, that person must take an AncestryDNA test and either:
- a. Be a DNA Match to another user who has taken an AncestryDNA test and that person has expressly chosen to view their DNA Matches (potential relatives in our AncestryDNA database); or
- b. Have another user who has taken an AncestryDNA test expressly share their DNA results with such a person (which will also allow whomever the DNA results are shared with to see potential DNA Matches of the person sharing their DNA results).
- AncestryDNA users choose their own display names for their AncestryDNA user profile, which can be anything (so long as it is not offensive) - even simply initials. Tests managed by the parent or legal guardian of a minor child will show the parent or legal guardian as the “Manager” of the test and only the child’s initials will be viewable by DNA matches along with the parent’s chosen display name. AncestryDNA display names can be changed by the user at any time in DNA Settings.
In order to provide many of the insights available to AncestryDNA users, such as AncestryDNA communities and matching, Ancestry compares users’ DNA against the other users in our DNA database. The resulting list of Ancestry users with whom someone shares a DNA connection we call “DNA Matches” and are provided if such user expressly chooses to view (and be viewed by) their DNA Matches. If an AncestryDNA user chooses not to view (and be viewed by) their DNA Matches, no other AncestryDNA users will see that user in a DNA Match list. Users can select their DNA Match viewability preference during AncestryDNA test kit activation and then may, at any time, change the viewability preference in DNA Settings.
DNA Matches may reveal unexpected connections, including genetic relationships that contradict existing familial relationships that might appear in a family tree (e.g. in cases of adoption or donor conception where sperm, egg or embryo donation was used). Sometimes this reveals the parentage of a user which is different from what the user may have previously understood about their parentage. If users are concerned about the implications of DNA Matches, they can elect not to view or be viewed by DNA Matches in DNA Settings.
As a result of some of the potential adverse impacts following from the revelation of unknown genetic relationships, Ancestry cautions users to carefully consider whether to submit saliva samples for processing. Existing users that find surprising results may also consider changing their viewability settings or even deleting their DNA Test Results entirely.
We take our responsibility and the potential impact of complex discoveries very seriously. Ancestry works hard to help explain to our users how some of what they might learn may be unexpected. We have a dedicated team of customer service representatives trained to help users use and understand Ancestry’s Services. For users with more sensitive queries, we offer a small, dedicated group of highly experienced representatives who can help guide users to their own discoveries.
External support and advice services impacted by this example are available in several countries, including:
For residents of US
US National Library of Medicine
For residents of the United Kingdom
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
For residents of Canada
For residents of Australia
Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority
https://www.varta.org.au/regulation/legislation-and-guideline-overview (or your local Federal equivalent).
Deleting Personal Information
For information about how to request deletion of information you find on our site about you or people in your household, click here.