Family Tree DNA Partners with Geni.com

geni logo  family tree dna logo

I received the following press release earlier today from Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA is pleased to announce a partnership with Geni, a division of MyHeritage and home of the collaborative World Family Tree. This optional new feature offers seamless integration of both platforms, greatly enhancing the accuracy of Geni’s World Family Tree and providing new insights for millions of users interested in discovering more about their family histories.

Family Tree DNA has the world’s most comprehensive DNA testing and databases. Along with the company’s advanced suite of DNA tests, the new integration with Geni provides users of both platforms the ability to help confirm genetic relationships and discover previously unknown relatives. The integration of data is authenticated and secure, allowing simple transfer of DNA results from Family Tree DNA to Geni, should users opt to do so.

This added cross-functional feature is available to users who have tested their DNA with Family Tree DNA and have a profile with Geni, but can also be utilized by anyone who registers with both platforms. To that end, the optional and error-free integration of DNA conveniently validates connections and relationships within one’s family tree. Marker data of Y-DNA and mtDNA tests is transferred—there is no manual entry of DNA information, thereby preventing human error.

Geni and its team of curators have merged publicly available Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA data into the World Family Tree, making it the most DNA-rich collaborative family tree to date. Access to all DNA features on Geni is free and user privacy is strictly maintained. No DNA raw data or marker information is displayed, and additional settings allow users to control all aspects of the way their DNA information is handled.

Users interested in DNA testing—or those who prefer more comprehensive tests— can purchase DNA tests on Geni’s DNA Testing page powered by Family Tree DNA. For users with DNA results from previous testing, Family Tree DNA’s one-click process makes it fast and easy to transfer DNA results into their Geni profile. With the integration of both platforms, Geni’s World Family Tree enables users to establish and visualize a more precise family tree along with new connections and DNA matches.

“This partnership and integration greatly increases the value of DNA for genealogy,” said Family Tree DNA founder and CEO, Bennett Greenspan. “It’s great to work with Geni and its parent company MyHeritage. DNA and family trees complement each other and come together perfectly on the World Family Tree.”

Mike Stangel, General Manager of Geni, said: “Adding DNA to the World Family Tree increases its accuracy and strengthens its position as the de facto resource that shows how everyone is related to everyone else. We are very happy to take our partnership with Family Tree DNA to the next level.”

Information on linking Geni accounts to Family Tree DNA and uploading DNA results to Geni is available here: http://www.geni.com/dna-tests/faq.

Taking a look at the Geni FAQ page, we find the following information:

What are the new DNA Integration features (released July 2016)?

We’re excited to announce that you can now import your DNA test results from Family Tree DNA to Geni, as well as upload your raw autosomal data for further processing. Geni will use your Y-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA and Autosomal DNA test results to confirm existing relationships in your family tree as well as discover new relatives. Specifically, Geni will:

  • Propagate Y-DNA results along the paternal lines to infer which other relatives should have matching DNA. If matching DNA is found, the line between the test-takers can be considered confirmed.
  • Propagate Mitochondrial DNA results along the maternal lines to infer which other relatives should have matching DNA. If matching DNA is found, the line between the test-takers can be considered confirmed.
  • Use Autosomal DNA matching to confirm close relationships
  • Guide you on what DNA tests to take to confirm relationships in your family tree
  • Show DNA conflicts that indicate where the tree may have mistakes, and provide guidance on other living people who can be tested to resolve the conflict
  • List other Geni users whose DNA matches your own, which enables you to compare trees to determine how you are related
  • Organize profiles into haplogroup projects

These features sound wonderful, especially relative to finding candidates for Y and mtDNA testing, but there is one piece of missing information in the FAQ.

Does Geni Sell Our DNA?

While Geni states that they don’t display your DNA results, only “matches and haplogroups,” and that your DNA information is private and secure, what they don’t say is if they will be selling or sharing your autosomal DNA results to third parties.

For additional questions, you’re directed from their FAQ page to their help page, but to submit a request form from the help page, one must login to Geni. Geni might want to rethink this policy, especially relative to DNA.  Furthermore, the link at the bottom of the DNA Tests page does the same thing.

Geni DNA tests

You can’t examine the fine print if you can’t find the fine print.

I do have a Geni account, so I signed on to view the DNA Terms of Service.

Here’s a quote from part of the Terms of Service document.

By submitting DNA Results to the Website, you grant Geni a royalty-free, world-wide license to use your DNA Results, and any DNA Results you submit for any person from whom you obtained legal authorization as described in this Agreement, and to use, host, sublicense and distribute the resulting analysis to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered. You hereby release the Company from any and all claims, liens, demands, actions or suits in connection with the DNA Results, including, without limitation, errors, omissions, claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, right of publicity, emotional distress or economic loss. This Agreement continues even if you stop using the Website or DNA Services.

And this:

By transferring any DNA Results to the Website, you hereby grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to Geni the right to receive, use, modify, publicly display, reproduce, distribute, and create derivative works of such DNA Results solely on and through the DNA Services for commercial and non-commercial purposes and the Company’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the DNA Services (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

I was concerned about the above verbiage, but then, by clicking on the Privacy Policy link on the DNA Terms of Use page, we find the following:

Geni privacy policy

This very specifically says they will NOT share our DNA without informed consent and not without an opt-in.  Let’s see what opt-in means at Geni.

Opt-In

For me, the answer to whether I will participate, or not, is in large part based on whether or not my DNA will be sold or “shared” with third parties without my specific permission.  I have several Y and mtDNA lines that I need to find test candidates for, or even better yet, would like to know if that line has already tested.  This feature isn’t offered by any other vendor today, and might be very, very beneficial if enough people participate! So, much like Pavlov’s dogs, I’m salivating.

It appears, based on Geni’s Privacy Policy, that Geni will not share our information with third parties if we don’t specifically authorize that sharing when we upload our results.  That’s good news and exactly what I wanted to hear.  But what does that really mean?

Other vendors depend on less than straightforward authorizations and click-throughs that say you’ve read and understand a policy and in that document are buried statements that your anonymized DNA will be shared and there is nothing you can do about it.

The Geni blog provides a lot more information about how the new interface will work, including an interesting projects feature.

Furthermore, based on this screen shot from their blog, it appears that indeed, their research opt-in truly is an opt-in and unless you do opt-in, you’re opted out.

Geni opt in

As far as I’m concerned, this is exactly how opting in should work.  Hurray for Geni!!!

At this point, I don’t see any reason to NOT participate – and the lure of finding individuals that have already Y and mtDNA tested on a specific line is very exciting.

I hear it now, brick walls are gonna fall!!!