I know of the policy to not post personably identifiable information (PIFI) of anyone born in the last 100 years that may be possibly living as well as the situation of cousin baiting.

There are sites like DNA.Ancestry.com, YSearch, FamilyTreeDNA, etc that provide matching services as well as they provide ancestral origins.

What is not clear is with the budding field of DNA Genealogy and how that applies in this forum and to what extend should questions regarding particular DNA traits (even origins, traits (i.e. red hair/brown eyes)) be part of this forum or does that fall under medical interpretation, but also as FTDNA points out in many of their FAQs that if post your personal DNA you are essentially posting PIFI on the open internet that while today you may not be able search for someone by it, in the future you may be able to.

So what extent in detail should these questions go? Such as for example is there a limit of number of personal markers one can post for particular tests, can they state they are a member of Halogroup A with B, C mutations.?

Trying to get the discussion going and will refine question as necessary.

Some Examples of past discussions that are related, I believe there were also a few more but lacking the DNA tag.

  1. Recruiting/Cousin Bating discussion that might have been more relevant if they had included more detail and not just said.. "hey looking for more participants" would this have been more of a valid discussion or if they were requesting helping define their specific Halo-group sub-group and posting a table of results would; but this is the one that got me thinking about this while also thinking about questions I have stirring in my head about DNA topics.
  2. Interpretation discussion and the am I from Africa discussion could have from another user had more genetic information directly included about lineage vs. just the percentages.

In many of the other discussions in this forum we like our questions to be well defined with minimal generalizations but in both of these cases generalizations were used but could have gone to the very specific detail.


2 Answers 2


On not posting PIFI: Given that some users of this forum may use their real names, have contact information available on their profiles, or even reuse a fairly unique username they use on other web-based locations, I don’t think we can assume that any poster is or always will be anonymous.

If as you ask/suggest that there may be an agreed upon limit to the number of personal markers one can post, I don’t think that precludes posting of PIFI. In rare cases a single SNP can point to a strong possibility for serious health outcomes. Data analysis tools will only grow and become more robust for direct to consumer genetic testing like we currently have access to.

And we can’t assume that search engines will remain as they are currently. One day we will likely experience more advanced search capabilities, increased granularity for actual search results, and of course more content that has been added to or scraped by search engines. Actually, better search tools are already available, they just are not in our consumer level toolbox.

I am suggesting that any posting of DNA test results may end up on the open web. While you may still allow for informed users to post limited amount of DNA data for Q&A or discussion purposes, I think the users should be made aware to assume their data is or will be public. And certainly more public than if one used services like the big DNA testing companies, or smaller DNA analysis efforts like GedMatch.

In terms of disclaimers about potential release of DNA data, I find the disclaimers and consent docs on http://www.personalgenomes.org/ a fascinating read...


In my opinion, questions which contain both a paper trail naming individuals and the DNA marker information for those people are not appropriate for this site. I don't see how such questions could be written without violating our rule against posting personally-identifying information. Your DNA is not yours alone -- it is, by nature, also something that belongs to other people who are biologically related to you, including any living descendants, siblings, and other relatives.

This quote is from the article: 23 and You -- Does that commercial DNA test you just bought violate somebody else’s privacy?

In 2010, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. asked 12 celebrities to get DNA tests for his television show about genealogy, Faces of America. The novelist Louise Erdrich was the only one to refuse. Erdrich’s maternal grandfather was a chief of the Turtle Mountain Chippewas, a Native American tribe in North Dakota, and Erdrich is also an enrolled member. As Erdrich explained to Gates regarding the DNA test:

"It wouldn’t do me any harm, but when I asked my extended family about this --
and I did go to everyone -- I was told, ‘It’s not yours to give, Louise.’"

Services like GEDMatch and the DNA companies, AncestryDNA, and the like, share information with like-minded individuals who presumably have read the terms of service and understand the risk involved in participating there. Even so, there is controversy about whether the companies are warning their customers that they might be exposing themselves to things that they don't want to know.

Stack Exchange is an entirely different kettle of fish than these other services. It is made to be searched by Google on purpose.

I'll add links to other articles on privacy below as I find them.

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