Code of Conduct
This information was last updated on February 4, 2019.
The priority of the administrator(s) of the Joint Surnames project (Hourihane, Horrigan, Hanrahan, Horan) is to protect your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data. Protection of your personal information supercedes any project goals.
Email the project administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have concerns about the way your data is being handled.
Starting May 25, 2018, project administrators have NO access your account settings (called "Minimal Access") by default. In order for the project to be able to assess your results fully, members will need to grant "Limited Access" or better to their accounts. This is described in the project FAQ.
Members who do not grant this access will not have their results analyzed.
We do not tell anyone whether a particular individual is in the project or not or if someone from a contemporary famous family is in the project or not.
The project does not make public any member lists or any files of member identities/contact information with Y results.
As an extra precaution, the project no longer makes public the project Y DNA results. Those results are viewable only to project members.
We do not publish or pass on your name, email, or other private information to other project members or anyone else.
If you decide to leave the project, all information about you is removed from the Harley project at FTDNA and from relevant project files administrator(s) keep on personal computers.
Your Y DNA results do not reveal any health data.
The FTDNA account profile must be set up as described in the FAQ. If you contact us with questions about a particular kit number and your name and email are not represented on the account so we can easily identify you in our private member list, then we cannot answer your questions. If the kit profile does not properly represent the tester and the person monitoring the test kit, if any, the kit may be removed from the project. Kits with improperly set up profiles/contact information put present and future project administrator(s) at greater risk of violating privacy policies.
If you are not the tester but are monitoring the kit of the tester, the email you contact the project administrator(s) by must be the primary email on the account. Otherwise we will not answer questions about the kit or about matches.
The FAQ page describes the distinction between the FTDNA website and the external project website and the differences in project participation levels. The project no longer automatically publishes on the project website the data of individuals who qualify as Active Project Participants - the second participation level. Those members must give their explicit permission for the use of their data on the project website. When their permission is given, they are assigned PROJECT MEMBER numbers separate from their FTDNA kit numbers, for use on the project website. Their data is tagged with those numbers. See the project FAQ on granting that permission.
Your family tree has three privacy settings: PUBLIC, MATCHES, and PRIVATE. FTDNA recently disabled the family tree sitewide search feature, but if it were enabled, your family tree would show up if it were set to PUBLIC. The project recommends sharing your family tree with MATCHES.
Living people born less than 100 years ago will not be displayed to your audience. You, as well as deceased individuals and individuals born more than 100 years ago, will be displayed to your audience.
See also: FTDNA's Privacy and Sharing page.
See also: FTDNA's Project Administrator Settings page.
Law Enforcement Searches of FTDNA Data
With a search warrant or subpoena, law enforcement can search FTDNA data. FTDNA cannot refuse legally valid requests without facing obstruction of justice charges. It does not matter whether you have opted out of sharing your data with matches and projects or not. With a valid legal request, law enforcement can request data beyond what is ordinarily available to customers.
The only way to make certain law enforcement can never scrutinize your data is to never have a DNA sample stored with any lab and to never leave your DNA in public places.
The following letter is from Bennett Greenspan, founder of FTDNA, on February 3, 2019.
I am writing to address the news that our Gene-by-Gene laboratory, which processes genetic tests for several commercial clients in addition to all of the FamilyTreeDNA tests, has processed a handful of DNA samples for cold cases from the F.B.I. In many cases, the news reports contained false or misleading information.
Let me start with this categorical statement:
LAW ENFORCEMENT DOES NOT HAVE OPEN ACCESS TO THE FTDNA DATABASE.
They cannot search or “dig through” FTDNA profiles any more than an ordinary user can. As with all other genetic genealogy services, law enforcement must provide valid legal process, such as a subpoena or search warrant to receive any information beyond that which any other user can access.
I have been an avid genealogist since I was twelve years old. FamilyTreeDNA is not just a business, it is my passion. I fully understand your privacy concerns on a personal level.
FamilyTreeDNA has always taken your privacy seriously and will continue to do so. We’ve remained steadfast, always, refusing to sell your data to pharmaceutical companies and other third parties.
One of the key reasons law enforcement wanted to submit their samples to us is the same reason many of you have: out of all the major companies, FamilyTreeDNA is the only one that has its own lab, and our customers’ samples never leave our company.
As previously stated, law enforcement can only receive information beyond that which is accessible to the standard user by providing FamilyTreeDNA with valid legal process, such as a subpoena or a search warrant. Again, this is specified in FamilyTreeDNA’s Terms of Service, just as with all other companies.
ABOUT OUR TERMS OF SERVICE
The Terms of Service were changed in May of 2018 to reflect GDPR requirements, and we informed our customers about the update at that time. Those changes included a paragraph that required law enforcement to receive our permission to enter the database and since it was a part of the overall update, notice was sent to every FTDNA customer. Without infringing upon our customers’ privacy, the language in the paragraph referring to law enforcement was updated in December, although nothing changed in the actual handling of such requests. It was an oversight that notice of the revision was not sent to you and that is our mistake. Therefore, we are reverting our TOS to our May 2018 version, and any future changes will be communicated to you in a timely manner.
This is the May 2018, GDPR-compliant version, communicated to you at that time: “You agree to not use the Services for any law enforcement purposes, forensic examinations, criminal investigations, and/or similar purposes without the required legal documentation and written permission from FamilyTreeDNA.”
WE WILL DO A BETTER JOB OF COMMUNICATING WITH YOU.
I am genuinely sorry for not having handled our communications with you as we should have.
We’ve received an incredible amount of support from those of you who believe this is an opportunity for honest, law-abiding citizens to help catch bad guys and bring closure to devastated families. We want you to understand, as many of you already do, that you have the same protections that you’ve always had and that you have nothing to fear.
We’ve also heard from supporters offering ideas and solutions to make the FamilyTreeDNA experience a more comfortable one in light of this new information.
We are listening. Our plan is to create a panel of citizen genealogist advisors who will work with us as we focus on how to make your FamilyTreeDNA experience the best one available.