As you may or may not have noticed, Family Tree DNA recently implemented more options in the privacy and sharing section of everyone’s personal DNA page. That’s both the good news and the bad news.
Recent queries from group participants as to why their results were not showing in projects after they joined sent me on a quest to find out why. The answer is that the new privacy and security settings at Family Tree DNA now default to a setting on new kit purchases that causes new participants results to not show in projects. Another symptom is that as a project administrator, you’ll be able to see the participants results in your project, but you won’t be able to see their results in other projects they have joined when trying to help them with something like understanding haplogroup project grouping assignments.
In today’s more litigious society, giving people these types of options is not only a good thing, it’s necessary. Now the bad news. In the past, when you joined a project, your DNA results were automatically being shared on the project page, if the project had a public page. That was the point of joining a project and is what everyone has come to expect.
Please note that people who were already clients when these new options were added, so who had already joined projects and were sharing, were not set to the default of not sharing, and were set to the value of sharing. So if you were previously in a project and your results were being displayed, they still are. This only affects new kit purchases. Based on a kit I purchased on March 31, 2015, this new feature was implemented sometime after the middle of February and before the end of March, but I don’t know exactly when.
As more and more people purchase these kits with the default option set to not sharing, more and more administrators are finding themselves being asked why results are not showing up in projects…and asking themselves this same question. The answer is, of course, that the defaults are now set for not sharing – but no one knows that. The participants are not ASKED this question and they have no idea THAT this is happening, that there is a problem…or that they need to DO anything to rectify the situation.
Furthermore, most administrators aren’t aware of this either. What this means, is that kits purchased since this change was made are NOT SHARING, but no one is aware of that until they stumble over it by accident.
Therefore, as interested parties and project administrators, we need to inform our participants of this default selection and that it needs to be changed. Please feel free to share this article to accomplish this goal.
I very much hope that Family Tree DNA will implement a stepped process with options and educational “balloon boxes” so that both new participants and people whose results are now set to “not share” will be able to make selection choices when they set their account up or when they join projects. Testers need to understand what they are being asked to select, why, and how their selections will affect their results and experience, both today and into the future. Defaulting to not sharing is counter-productive and I fear that new testers will inadvertently be eliminated from project matching and grouping when that wasn’t their intention at all.
So, let’s take a look at the newest Family Tree DNA privacy and sharing options and how they affect participants, projects and project administrators.
Privacy and Sharing
You reach the privacy and sharing options by clicking on the “Manage Personal Information” link in the “Your Account” box to the left of your personal page at Family Tree DNA.
By clicking on the orange link, you’ll see the following Account Settings.
While you’re here, you may want to update your profile information.
On all selections, don’t forget to click on SAVE, or it won’t.
Now, let’s move on to the privacy and sharing tab, to the far right of the options on the tab at the top. Privacy and sharing options are divided into three sections.
The selections greyed out on the right are the current default settings when you purchase a new kit. There are no instructions or step-through dialogue boxes to help participants understand how these selections will affect who can see their results, and how that will affect their experience with DNA testing.
Needless to say, the power of DNA testing is sharing ancestral and genealogical information. Otherwise, there is truly no reason to test. Family Tree DNA has recently implemented changes which allow participants to select various levels of sharing.
Unfortunately, the default settings are in essence “off” for project sharing, once someone joins a project, which creates a great deal of confusion for participants and project administrators alike.
Participants presume their results are being shared, just the like results of the people they match. Project administrators have no idea that the participants results aren’t being displayed in the projects, and when they discover that little tidbit, they have no idea why the results aren’t being displayed – because they always were before.
The Privacy and Sharing options are divided into three sections, My Profile, My DNA Results and Account Access
Let’s look at these one section at a time.
Who can view my Most Distant Ancestor?
Default Setting: Only You
This means that no one you match can see your most distant ancestor.
Options: Share my Most Distant Ancestor with other people in projects that I’ve joined.
Creating an exception.
It appears that you can select to share within all projects (that you’ve joined), but elect to omit some projects, or you can select to not share with all projects, but to elect to share with only select projects.
Note that I manage several kits with the same surname. The default for both existing and new accounts is “only you”. I checked and the most distant ancestor does show in both projects and matching when the “only you” selection is selected. I suspect this is a bug, but currently, it’s how this option is functioning. If this options starts functioning as it appears that it is supposed to, all of a sudden, your most distant ancestor information may disappear. If so, this is why and this option needs to be changed to “share with other people in projects.”
Of course, this entire question presumes you’ve entered your most distant ancestor information.
Please enter your most distant ancestor for both your male paternal (father’s surname) line and your matrilineal (mother’s mother’s mother’s) line on the Genealogy Tab, under Most Distant Ancestors, shown below.
If you don’t enter this information, your “Most Distant Ancestor” won’t be listed in projects, example below, so if other people from this line are looking to see if their line has tested, that information won’t be available to them.
Furthermore, if your information isn’t there, it can’t and won’t be displayed to your matches. You certainly want that information from your matches, so be sure to provide it for your matches to see as well. In the example below, the first person did not complete this information, but the second person did. As it turns out, they both descend from the same ancestor, but the person matching them can’t tell, because one person doesn’t have their Most Distant Ancestor listed.
Who can see me in project member lists?
Default: Project Administrators
This selection works in tandem with how the project administrators of various projects you may have joined choose to implement the project display. In other words, if the project isn’t public, then the “anyone” option is meaningless, because the public won’t be able to see the project at all.
Fortunately, most projects are publicly displayed.
The next question about this option is what, exactly, and where is a project member list?
When you visit any project, you will see a front page. On that page, you will see several options relating to that project. In the Kvochick project, there are 5 members. If you click on the 5 members, that should display the list of the names of project members.
The default setting is only for project administrators to see the names. In this case, your name would not appear in this list if clicked on by anyone other than the project administrator.
The second option would be for project members only, and the third option would be for the general public.
Please note that as of the writing of this article, I tested several projects and none had clickable numbers, so this option does not appear to be implemented at this time.
My DNA Results
Who can view my ethnic breakdown in myOrigins?
Default: Project Administrators
Your two options are to share with your matches, or not share with your matches. Do not share is the default.
Here is an example of people who are sharing ethnic results in myOrigins. If you are not sharing, your name would not appear on this list for your matches on the bottom left.
Lastly, the only ethnicity that is shared with your matches is an ethnicity they have as well. In this case, the participant only has European ethnicity, so that is the only portion of his matches ethnicity that is shown to him.
Who can view my DNA results in group projects?
This new option is the one causing havoc with administrators and projects.
Default: Make my mtDNA and Y-DNA private. It will only be shown to people in my project.
Options: Make my mtDNA and Y-DNA public.
I strongly, strongly suggest that you make this selection public. Let me give you an example of why.
Let’s say I’m a female, and I want to know if my paternal line has tested. I would check the appropriate surname project.
In this case, let’s say I’m looking to see if any descendants of John Harrold (Herrell, Harrell, Harrald) who died in 1825 in Wilkes County, NC have tested.
When people share their results, you will be able to find out if your line has tested.
You can see in the example below that my Harrold line is group 7 in the Harrell project, so I now know my line has tested, and I can see my haplogroup designation and Y markers for John’s line.
If none of these John Harrold descendants had elected to share, then I would never be able to find this information. If you’re looking for any of your ancestral surnames, you won’t be able to find those lines either – if the people who test don’t share. If people who are looking to test don’t see their ancestral line, they will think there is no one to compare to, and they may be discouraged from testing. This is certainly not what we want.
The problem today is that people who purchase tests don’t know they aren’t sharing – they assume they are. Before these new privacy options became available, by default, if you joined a project, you WERE sharing. Now, new participants aren’t sharing – even though they joined the project – unless they change their options.
Furthermore, if you are a project member, let’s say of the Harrell project, and one of the administrators is trying to help you understand your results in a haplogroup project, the Harrell administrator can’t see your results in the haplogroup project either – so we can’t help you.
PLEASE, PLEASE MAKE THE PROJECT RESULTS PUBLIC UNLESS YOU HAVE A COMPELLING REASON NOT TO DO SO.
To not share this information defeats the entire purpose of DNA testing.
The most information that any project at Family Tree DNA can reveal is the kit number, surname (only) of tester, paternal (or maternal) most distant ancestor name, country of origin, haplogroup and the DNA markers (Y 12-111 and mtDNA HVR1 and HVR2 only) for which the individual has tested. Below, a sample project is shown with the maximum amount of information categories shown (except I’ve truncated the markers shown to the right for space reasons.)
To review the project setting, by default, only project members who are signed into their account and looking at the project can view your data. Anyone who is not a project member and not signed into their account cannot see your data in the project
If you select public, anyone looking at the public project page can see your results, like the example above – assuming that the project itself is public. This is only valid for Y and mtDNA HVR1 and HVR2 data, as mitochondrial DNA coding region and autosomal DNA results are never displayed publicly.
Who can view my mtDNA Coding Region mutations?
Default: Only you.
If you have tested at the mitochondrial full sequence level, you will have tested the full HVR1, HVR2 and coding regions. While the HVR1 and HVR2 regions are not currently known to reveal medical conditions, the coding region has the potential to carry some medical information. Therefore, your coding region is NEVER displayed publicly, in a project. Displaying the coding region is not an option. If you elect to share your coding region mutations privately, that is up to you.
However, in order for mitochondrial DNA project administrators to correctly group you in mitochondrial DNA projects, they must be able to see your coding region results to know where your mutations fall.
Therefore, you can authorize project administrators to view the coding region results, by project. In the example above, the individual is only a member of one project. In order to authorize the Estes project administrator to view the coding region, click the box and then Save.
How much access to Project Administrators have to my account?
What do the various authorization levels allow? Here’s the list.
If you have given an administrator full access to your account, which means you have given them your kit number and password, they have full access to everything and that supercedes these options.
Who has full access to my account?
Default: Only You
Options: Give the administrator your kit number and password.
Obviously, if you have privately e-mailed your kit number and password to an admin or anyone, Family Tree DNA has no way of knowing or tracking that.
You will find a few more options that affect how your Family Tree is displayed on the Genealogy tab.
If you have uploaded a GEDCOM file or completed a family tree online at Family Tree DNA, who can be seen in your tree, and by whom, is controlled by this setting.
Having an entirely private tree is the same as having no tree and is not useful to anyone, so I really have no idea why someone would do this.
Of course, you can always see which of your matches has a tree available and can click on the pedigree icon to view your matches tree, if they authorize matches to view their tree. On the example below of a Y DNA matching page, the first two participants do have a family tree, as indicated by the little blue pedigree icon, and the third individual does not.
I encourage everyone to either upload your GEDCOM file or create a family tree online at Family Tree DNA. You can do either by clicking on the Family Tree Link on your myFTDNA menu at the top left of your personal page.
Including a family tree makes finding a common ancestor so much easier. Genetic genealogy is all about sharing and collaboration – and finding those ancestors!
Family Tree DNA recently implemented a public search function that allows public searches of online trees and GEDCOMS.
Why would someone search like this? To see if people from their genealogocal lines have tested. In other words, people wondering if they should test. Allowing your tree to be seen publicly is in essence, cousin bait – of course you want them to test – the more the merrier and the better chance you have of breaking down those brick walls.
Below is an example of how your tree privacy selection, made under the Genealogy Tab above, impacts what can be seen by a public search.
As an example, I did a public search for my ancestor, Jotham Brown. Sure enough, there are several people at Family Tree DNA who have good ole Jotham in their trees. That’s great – because it means I have a chance of matching some of them using the Family Finder test.
In the results above, you can see the three options for how trees are listed:
- Entirely private such that you need to test and will only see the tree if you match
- Public tree noted by the name of the owner
- Tree included but noted as private member – which just means the name of the tree owner is not displayed
You can see the actual trees of both the public and private trees that are shown with clickable links. You cannot see the tree of the private family tree with no link.
Clicking on the trees shows you the following example, depending on the tree display options you’ve selected. The tree below has selected to mask living people and people deceased within a hundred years.
Both trees labeled with a source and private member trees are shown, but with the privacy screening you’ve selected. The only difference I’ve been able to find between those two options is that the source tree name is given for the public trees, and is not for the private member trees. However, there is no contact information for the public trees (or any trees), so this is not a way to contact other genealogists. You can only contact them if you have a match through DNA testing.
The third option is that completely private trees are only shown to matches. These are noted as a private family tree and the searcher is instructed to purchase a Family Finder test to see if they match. That is, after all, the goal!!!
Hopefully this search function will encourage more people to test. After all, other people who descend from their ancestor are in the data base!
Privacy settings have changed and we have to figure out the best way to work with the new features.
Let’s make sure our new participants understand their settings and what needs to be changed in order to have their results displayed in the manner they desire.
As always, the way to obtain the best genetic genealogy experience is by sharing. That’s what collaborative research and crowd-sourcing is all about. Everyone shares individually and the power of the group is what gives genetic genealogy its awesome results.
So, the 4 key elements for successful sharing are to:
- Set your project sharing status to public, not private.
- Enter your most distant ancestor information
- Share your most distant ancestor information with matches and projects
- Upload your GEDCOM file or create a family tree at Family Tree DNA