You can be tracked in the DNA bases of MyHeritage and Ancestry without even submitting a sample


DNA databases are beginning to spread in scope, both in terms of suppliers and, not least, in the amount of DNA that is stored. Even if you have not submitted your DNA yourself you can be found in these databases.

A relative of yours may have submitted a DNA sample to find more information about themselves and the family. It will then be possible for the police to find you by also using these DNA databases.

10 million have submitted DNA samples

An article in Genome Biology from August last year, written by Razib Khan and David Mittelman, reveals that 10 million people have submitted DNA samples. The number is so huge that many of us no longer need to submit our DNA to enable others to track us this way.

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In another article, written by Yaniv Erlich, is called Identity inference of genomic data using long-range familial searches. In this, Erlich reveals how humans can be identified using relatives’ DNA tests.

He assumes that a human being has about 850 relatives. That is if we make the circle of relatives including third cousins. A third cousin is one with whom you share your great great grandparents. Anyone who has been engaged in genealogy for a while knows that great great grandparents can have many descendants!

Even though someone has a hit on your DNA through one of these 850 people’s samples, a major investigation remains to find you – but it is possible.

Read also: Asking people to take DNA tests in search of criminals

Ancestry is the largest

Of all the companies that provide genealogy tests via the DNA, Ancestry is the largest. However, it is closely followed by perhaps the somewhat more unknown 23andme before MyHeritage comes in third place.

These companies possess millions of saliva samples that say something about the prevalence of the world’s population, where they live and who they are related to.

Read also: DNA from genealogical databases uncover immigrants’ origin

Could your DNA have been submitted without you knowing it?

Companies such as Ancestry, MyHeritage and GEDmatch do not allow anyone to submit others’ saliva samples, but it is still possible to do so. Most of us can live with the police submitting DNA samples from crime scenes. What if others for reasons of curiosity or people with malicious intent use DNA databases to pry into the privacy of others?

Most danger to people from Europe or the United States

About 10 million people have now submitted their saliva samples to be identified in these DNA databases. The samples originate primarily from humans in Europe and North America. It is therefore primarily individuals from these areas that can be tracked using the DNA databases of MyHeritage, Ancestry, GEDmatch, 23andme and others.