Security and Privacy

Did you really mean to say that you didn’t want to see your matches????  Have you accidentally done this?

At Family Tree DNA, you may notice that some of your matches, especially at the 12 marker or HVR1 levels, particularly if you have a lot of matches, may be marked “private” and greyed out, with no contact or other information. What does this mean and why would someone take a DNA test for genealogy, then mark their results as private?

Those are great questions and there are several answers. First, some people don’t realize that the selection they make in their “Account Settings” tab affects how their results are displayed, or not displayed, to their matches.  They also don’t realize that it can suppress those matches for them as well.

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You can see that for both Y-line and mitochondrial DNA, you can disable matches and e-mail notification. This means that you won’t receive match notifications for 12 marker matches, if you disable that level, nor will any of your information be shown to your matches. Furthermore, you won’t see those matches either. They will not appear on your match list.  In fact, you won’t have a match list for the level you disable.

Some people only test at 12 markers, for example, so if you disable 12 marker matches, be absolutely sure that you really don’t want to be notified if you match someone with the same surname at 12 markers that did not test at a higher level. If you disable these notifications and matches, this is what your matches will see:

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As you can see, your match will be able to see your surname only, how many mutations difference there is between you and them, no “most distant ancestor,” no haplogroup information and more importantly, no way to contact you. This is typically not what people mean to do, but this is the result.

In one case, a man was distraught because he had no matches, but had disabled matches at all levels of testing, so of course, none showed. He had matches, he just couldn’t see them and he didn’t notice the message that said he had disabled matching at that level. He thought that the only function he had disabled was the e-mail match messages, but that wasn’t the case. It’s all or nothing at each level.  You can’t disable the messages without disabling the matches too.

There are other security options you can select as well. Some, are found under “Personal Profile” settings, others under “Account Settings,” and finally, a beneficiary designation in case something should happen to you. This is the only person that Family Tree DNA will allow to access your account. Please take a little time to click through these options so that you personalize your experience in such a way that best fits your testing goals.

Aside from your matches and project displays, the only other people who can see your information are the volunteer group administrators of the groups you join. You can control, by your selections, how much they can view. There are several items they can view, but not change, such as your e-mail address, for example.  Group administrators have a set of guidelines that they must follow.

In the case of mitochondrial DNA, if you have tested at the full sequence level, the project administrators of haplogroup projects cannot see your full sequence level which is necessary to categorize your results into subgroups unless you specifically change your setting to allow them to view your mitochondrial full sequence results. This is found under “Account Settings” then “Results Display Settings.” Change the answer to yes for the appropriate projects.

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The key, of course, to privacy and security is to have as much privacy as you wish, without actually hurting your chances of making genealogical connections, and contacts, which is, after all, the entire reason that you tested in the first place.

8 thoughts on “Security and Privacy

  1. I have written to two people now that did not know that their results were even back. One had sent in last spring and one was fairly new. I did not recieve a notice either, but was on my uncles matches and saw my name!

    • Sometimes those notification e-mails manage to get into the spam filter, or something they get eaten by internet trolls:) Also, if your e-mail address bounced, you get put on a blacklist automatically and you have to ask the Family Tree helpdesk to check the blacklist to get your e-mail removed. This is a requirement so that they are allowed to send out large amounts of e-mails without being labeled a spammer.

  2. Only a few of my matches have uploaded a gedcom file. A few weeks ago I emailed some of the close matches and very nicely suggested that we could help each other make connections by uploading our family trees (gedcoms). So far, no one has uploaded anything or responded to my email. Others I didn’t even contact because there was no email address. It’s a mystery why they tested at the 67 marker level if they weren’t interested in getting the results.

  3. I hope some people will see your article. My husband has had several matches but the closest one is marked private and he did not get any response after attempts to contact another. Why do the test if you don’t want to be contacted? There doesn’t seem to be anyway for Family Tree to contact someone and let a person know someone is trying/wanted to contact them. I suspect that with all the hacking problems, people may hesistate to open an email from someone they don’t recognize.

  4. Thank you Roberta! So frustrating to see the greyed out matches, but even more frustrating when your matches don’t won’t to share (or simply don’t know) their surnames or even respond to your emails. For example, my closest match yet on the Family Finder keeps forwarding me to his project admin. The admin. himself has tried to encourage this match to share what he knows directly with me, but I think he wants his admin to do all the work. Oh yeah, the match lives in another county right beside me, but the admin lives on the other side of the country! Ergh!

  5. I have a cousin who tested several months ago and has no y-matches on his 12 marker test. None. I double checked his privacy settings. He is second-generation American from Germany. Is that common? I would have expected at least a few matches!

    • Some people don’t because their marker values are so rare. I do offer a service for those who want to know which of their markers are rare and the percentage in that haplogroup where they are found. That might be useful for you.

  6. Pingback: DNAeXplain Archives – Historical or Obsolete Articles | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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