How could a DNA testing company be more unfriendly towards genealogists? I don’t know, but if you can think of something, I’m sure 23andMe will implement it.
23andMe has always been the “difficult” company to deal with, adding layers upon confusing layers of authorizations and requests to communicate and share DNA matching results, but the last few months, as far as I’m concerned have put lots of nails in their coffin.
Recently, the final nail went in.
The “upgrade,” and I use that term very loosely, began months ago at 23andMe amid something akin to a meltdown. Four months later, nothing has improved. None of the accounts that I manage have been transferred to the new format, communications have been nil and needless to say, any genealogical work has died on the vine for lack of water.
The transition that was supposed to be done by year end isn’t, and no word from 23andMe.
I’ve decided that with the other two testing companies, meaning Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, combined with GedMatch, that I really don’t need the hassles and frustrations inherent in 23andMe anymore. This is, after all, supposed to be fun.
I signed on at 23andMe to clean up one of my accounts in preparation for deleting it. The reason I was going to delete my kit is because you cannot opt out of their research entirely, and I didn’t want to simply abandon the kit at 23andMe, allowing their continued use but giving up on my end due to their decisions and business practices relative to genetic genealogy.
So, I signed in like normal, using the e-mail account that I used for this kit as my user ID and then my password.
Little did I know the trap 23andMe has set, but I soon found out.
I decided to check matches one last time and download the V2 data file. I don’t ever expect to need this data, but just in case. So I started by downloading the raw data.
In order to download a raw data file, first you have to find the option, hidden under the the drop downs, under your name, under “browse raw data.”
When you click on the download option, you then have to re-enter your password (hint, you could not be at this screen had you not already entered your password correctly) and then you also have to answer a secret question.
Apparently you need to be “extra protected” against yourself and downloading your own raw data.
But next comes the trap.
Apparently 23andMe has implemented some sort of “internal timer” and if you haven’t signed in for awhile, they refuse to allow you access to your data, even AFTER you have signed in with the correct e-mail and password, then entered your password again, then entered your secret answer correctly. That’s 4 times you’ve authenticated that you are you – but that is apparently not good enough.
They insisted on sending an e-mail to my e-mail account to verify access. Well, I hate to tell you, but I abandoned that e-mail account long ago. But there was no reason to change the login at 23andMe to something different because the person who initially took this test is no longer interested in the results and hasn’t been in quite some time.
So I clicked on “send the verification” because I had no choice, hoping that perhaps I could then go and recover the password for that old e-mail account and sign in to that old account just long enough to verify the password. No such luck.
So, the next day, I decided to sign in to 23andMe again to see if I could somehow figure out how to change the e-mail to my current e-mail, but now I’m effectively locked out of my own account until the verification comes back…which of course it never will because it was sent to the old e-mail address that I couldn’t recover.
I clicked on the option for “not receiving the confirmation e-mails.”
Great – it gave me the option of resetting the e-mail. I entered my current e-mail, which is the same e-mail for the rest of the accounts I manage and received this lovely error message.
I can’t use my current e-mail because it’s already in use. It’s already in use because I manage other kits at 23andMe. And around and around we go.
In order to overcome this obstacle 23andMe has put in the road, I would have to go to a service where I don’t have an e-mail account and create one just to let 23andMe send me a confirmation e-mail so that I can access my account. Really?
So, let me get this right. 23andMe still has the DNA, is still selling and using the DNA with impunity and will forever unless I delete this kit, but I can’t have account access after entering 4 different security challenges correctly plus a new valid e-mail account? Seriously? And they somehow think this is acceptable?
Well, all I can say is that it’s a good thing I was already closing up shop at 23andMe, because this is the very last nail in that coffin. They couldn’t make this experience more difficult or painful if they tried.
I absolutely refuse to let them win. They are not going to gain unfettered permanent access to this DNA because they’ve made it too difficult for me to access. This overly aggressive “security” is nothing more than a way to exclude legitimate access and retain what they really wanted in the first place, your DNA to utilize and sell. If you can’t gain access, you can’t opt out of research, as much as one can opt out at 23andMe, and you can’t delete your kit. This is somehow poetic injustice at its worst. In other words, yes, it’s a very effective exclusionary trap.
So, I did in fact set up a new e-mail account, and I did confirm the e-mail address, and now I’ll set about deleting the account. We’ll see how that goes.
Goodbye 23andMe, forever. My only regret is that I waited so long to leave – kind of like a bad marriage.