Group projects are great. They advance genealogy and deeper ancestry understanding. However, membership in them comes at a cost to personal privacy. You have to be willing to let someone else see your results. For the results from the mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) full sequence test, it is a two part consideration and a two part choice. You first decide to join a project. You then decide whether or not to turn on visibility of your coding region results so that the administrators of that project can view them.
I am a person who likes my privacy. My family, those charming people I must convince to test, are deeply protective of theirs. They ask about company privacy policies. They ask if companies follow their privacy policies. My dearest family members ask just what I plan to do with their DNA. Well, one of those things I like to do is put them in DNA group projects. That is a privacy issue. There are choices.
The first choice is because projects are run by unpaid volunteer administrators. We administrators are fallible human beings, but Family Tree DNA gives us guidelines. Most of us do our best to live by them. Here is what those guidelines say about privacy as well as mtDNA.
Privacy and confidentiality are a key responsibility for a Group Administrator. Group Administrators have access to data and contact information of the members in the project. This access is necessary to assist participants in understanding and interpreting their results. Family Tree DNA expects Group Administrators to protect members’ privacy and confidentiality.
Group Administrators shall not use this access to:
- Publicly display, share, or change the contact information of any Project member.
- Publish research or information that may disclose or identify a member’s personal information without the written permission of the person tested and those who paid for the test.
- Enter their e-mail in the member’s personal contact information field without that person’s express authorization by e-mail or letter with a copy to Family Tree DNA.
- Authorize an upgrade to a Project member’s kit without their consent.
- Add Project members to other projects or move a Project member from one project to another.
- Use member information or research for any commercial purpose without express written authorization.
- Use member information or e-mail address to send any correspondence unrelated to the Group Project.
- Provide information or assistance to one project member while withholding the same from another project member.
- Post guarded DNA Results to a public website or otherwise make them public.
Guarded DNA Results are mtDNA Coding Region results, Factoid results, and Population Finder results.
Thus, you should be able to join yourself or a family member to any project expecting that everything above will be followed. If you have doubts, ask the administrators of the project if they follow Family Tree DNA’s GAP Guidelines. If you are not comfortable with their answer, don’t join.
The part about not sharing guarded results and your second choice are because our mtDNA coding region contains genes. Changes to the genetic code in those genes every now and then is linked to a health concern. It is why Family Tree DNA does not display mtDNA coding region results on Project Public Websites.
For most of us though, especially those of us who have made it far enough in life to be genealogists, this is not an issue. It is something you have to be honest about with yourself and your family when you advocate testing. After you have exchanged enough e-mails with the project administrator to feel comfortable with them, here is how you go ahead and turn your mtDNA coding region result on.
To Turn Your Coding Region Results On:
1) Login to your account at Family Tree DNA, https://www.familytreedna.com/login.aspx.
2) Look across the top menu bar for My Account. Move your curser over it until the drop-down menu appears. Select Results Display Settings.
3) On the Results Display Settings page, you have the choice of sharing or not sharing your mtDNA coding region results for each project to which you belong. The default is No. Change the settings according to your wishes by selecting Yes or No radio buttons under each project name. Click the orange Save button to update your account.
- Family Tree DNA Editorial Team (2013). Family Tree DNA – myFTDNA 2.0 User Guide: General (If I have taken an mtDNA full sequence test, how do I choose which group project administrators are able to view my coding region results?). Retrieved from http://www.familytreedna.com/faq/answers.aspx?id=45#1741
- Family Tree DNA Editorial Team (2012, December 31). Group Administrator Guidelines for Family Tree DNA Projects. Retrieved from http://www.familytreedna.com/documents/GAP-Guidelines-12-31-12.pdf