Is Everyone’s DNA on File?

Is Everyone’s DNA on File?

Perhaps you have heard or read about DNA information being kept in databases. If you’re worried that yours is somewhere out there and could compromise your privacy, read on — I did the poking and prodding myself to know if your DNA sequence is in fact stored as a file somewhere.

Just because you were not suspected, arrested or convicted of a crime before doesn’t necessarily mean your DNA is not stowed in a database. If you have had your DNA collected and analyzed by a direct-to-consumer company, such as one that helps people to learn more about their ancestors, then your DNA sequence is certainly out there.

What’s more, it’s even possible for your identity, location, and even activities to be identified by means of DNA samples provided by blood relatives of yours.

DNA Sample Collection is Not Limited to Suspected or Convicted Criminals

Contrary to popular belief, law enforcement agencies are not the only ones that can collect DNA samples and then store resulting DNA sequences in DNA databases for present or future use. Your genetic information could, in fact, be stashed somehow or somewhere if you have elected to submit it for whatever reason.

For instance, you can rest assured that your DNA information is stored in a certain DNA database if you have had submitted a specimen — whether by spitting inside a plastic tube or rubbing a cotton swab against the inside of your cheek — to an agency other than one that’s associated with the law or a crime lab.

In this day and age, there are many agencies to which DNA samples can be submitted and in which DNA sequences can be stored for a limited or even an indefinite amount of time.

These days most especially, a lot of people find it extremely fun and exciting to learn about and ultimately connect with their roots. It’s for this reason exactly why genealogy or ancestry sites on the internet are particularly popular.

For these websites to be able to piece together your family tree, they will need to obtain your DNA information usually in the form of your saliva sample.

So to make the long story short, there’s no need to be suspected, arrested or convicted of a crime just for your DNA sequence to wind up being kept in a database. It’s not just the authorities that can collect and analyze your DNA sample and put on file the resulting details, but also many other agencies.

Concerns Over Sharing DNA Information to Consumer Genetic-Testing Companies

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to uncover your ancestry. It’s something that allows you to learn more about yourself as well as identify and even connect with long-forgotten relatives.

Unfortunately, there are some serious risks that come with providing your spit or cheek cells to a genealogy or ancestry site. Especially if you’re concerned with your privacy and the possibility of your DNA material winding up at a gruesome crime scene so that the blame may be put on you, then it can definitely be alarming to learn that a genetic-testing company has your DNA sequence on file for as long as deemed necessary.

What you should primarily be worried about is not the site using your DNA information for purposes other than figuring out your roots without your knowledge. The biggest concern is that hackers that could get their hands on them!

Your DNA sequence is not really kept in a physical filing cabinet — it is stored in a server for data storage, which is something that can be very tempting for crooks to hack into!

Direct-to-consumer genealogical DNA testing first surfaced in 2000, although it boomed in popularity only back in 2007 when the first saliva-based testing came into being. Needless to say, it is still relatively new, and that is why existing laws on genetic privacy are not that comprehensive.

Unless you explicitly consent against it, a genealogy or ancestry site could, in fact, share your DNA to third-party agencies such as drug-making companies.

And before I forget, law enforcement is well-aware of the fact that genetic-testing companies have rich databases of DNA sequences, and it could easily approach any one of them with a court-issued order to obtain any one of the DNA information on file.

DNA Information is Not Stored in DNA Databases Forever

It can be terrifying to think that law enforcement or any other interested party can have easy access to your genetic makeup provided that your DNA sequence is still kept on file somewhere — for as long as you’re breathing, it seems like your DNA can be accessed and used for just about any purpose.

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief because I got great news: your DNA is not stored in a DNA database for all eternity — it’s bound to be destroyed or erased at one point or the other.

For instance, individuals acquitted of serious crimes tend to have their DNA sequences kept anywhere from 3 to 5 years only, depending on circumstances such as when a District Judge orders an extension.

On the other hand, DNA of those convicted of serious crimes can be kept for an indefinite amount of time — you know, for when once again they’re suspected for some serious crimes in the future.

If you’re not comfortable with the fact that your DNA information is kept on file by the authorities even though you were only suspected and never convicted of a crime, then you may choose to obtain the help of an attorney.

Seeking legal support makes it possible for your DNA information to be destroyed or erased via what’s referred to as DNA database expungement, which is something that can be easily and quickly accomplished provided that your DNA qualifies for removal from a DNA database.

Elimination of DNA Sequence and Samples From Genetics Companies

Earlier, it was mentioned that genealogy or ancestry sites could also collect DNA samples and also store resulting DNA sequences and other pieces of information obtained in the process. You’ll be more than happy to learn that it’s actually so much easier to get your DNA eliminated from these sites.

The process is really hassle-free: all you have to do is pay the website a visit and go to the page where the “delete test results” option is available — doing this will result in the elimination of not only your DNA profile but also various derivative pieces of information after a specified number of days.

However, different websites have, in fact, different policies. Needless to say, before agreeing to have your DNA sample obtained and analyzed it’s of utmost importance to read the site’s privacy policy. Also, agreeing to have your submitted specimen used for research could potentially leave you in a pickle one day.

It’s important to note that DNA samples, such as spit and cheek swabs, submitted to these sites are required by the law to be destroyed after six months. In the past, they could be kept indefinitely most especially if users failed to inform genealogy or ancestry sites that they would like their specimen to be destroyed after analysis.

By the way, law enforcement agencies are also required by the law to get rid of DNA samples after six months, unless they’re still being used for investigations or court proceedings.

This only means that once your specimen is disposed of, concerned parties can no longer obtain your DNA makeup — they will have to ask you to provide another sample for them to be able to do that.

Photo credit: ©pexels/Element5 Digital

Ryan Sanders

Ryan Sanders is an aspiring genetics science enthusiast. His journey started with curiosity about his roots. He keeps learning more about genetics every day.

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