Under the pretext of carrying out scientific studies, foreign genetic genealogy laboratories like MyHeritage collect personal information. This has worrying implications. Beneath its playful and innocuous veneer, you are participating in the creation of a company shaped by our genetic heritage. Here is a look back at MyHeritage's astonishing and worrying surveys.
Does your DNA define your political views?
MyHeritage started its genetic studies in 2016. By launching a major commercial offensive on the French market, they "looted" French genetic data. And perhaps, in the initial rush, you completed one of their online surveys without realising the impact this could have.
Attracted by its innocent and light-hearted tone, you were willing to answer the survey. You could even compare your results with those of other participants, and as it's to help scientific research, you were glad to volunteer. We're all ready to volunteer for scientific research, aren't we?
With their childish little colorful drawings, we are free to select the theme that inspires us most out of the 24 online surveys.
And when completing it like any other survey, we forget its purpose: to link genetic characteristics to diseases (a laudable intention) but, above all, to very personal subjects with no medical interest.
An example? Here is the Media survey which I answered, with its various very intrusive questions devoid of scientific interest…
MyHeritage's scientific answers
Reading through the FAQ on its surveys, MyHeritage shares its vision of scientific research.
Question: How many of you went through the FAQ before answering these seemingly innocent questions?
Firstly, these surveys are only for MyHeritage's scientific team. There is no partnership with major universities or medical teams around the world, like 23andMe.
There is no official scientific publication allowing other scientists to discover the results of this research and use them to advance their own medical research, as 23andMe has done with its 123 official publications.
It must be said that these different organisations apply ethical rules that MyHeritage happily ignores.
In terms of the scientific research in which we participate, these investigations are internal and kept in-house by MyHeritage. You must acknowledge that this is a very selfish scientific interest, only benefiting MyHeritage!
The results displayed only relate to the questionnaires, but do not reveal fundamental information, i.e. the link between DNA and the results of the investigations.
On the other hand, MyHeritage learns a lot about you, personal information that it intends to exploit. They explain it to you in another tab of the FAQ.
MyHeritage studies you for its marketing
While you wait for MyHeritage to establish a link between your genes and your political opinions, the commercial company uses the information gathered to further its own interests. In another tab, MyHeritage admits it will make immediate use of the confidential data and information you have entrusted to them.
If the first line is reassuring, since MyHeritage assures us it will not resell the information or share it with other commercial companies, the rest bothers me more.
However, these are the techniques all these start-ups use, starting with Google and Amazon, which consist of collecting as much information about you as possible. By establishing a profile as accurately as possible, they then present you with the products most likely to interest you. They are guaranteed to see you buy the product they present to you, because it corresponds most to your interests.
So, as it develops commercially, in the future MyHeritage may want to present you with trips to where your ancestors came from, if you like travelling, or books about your interests… But what is the connection to your political, ethical or religious views? And above all, can we trust this foreign start-up which is subject only to the laws of the country in which it is based?
How can we avoid this gradual erosion of individual freedoms?
MyHeritage will tell you that it is very simple: you can choose whether to respond to these surveys or not. If you don't want to participate, don't do it. That seems obvious.
But they are still deceptive, concealing the link to genetic heritage behind what looks like a very innocent survey. With their graphics and presentation, I too have forgotten the purpose of the surveys. And that's MyHeritage's goal!
We trap ourselves by thinking we are doing the right thing, by responding to these seemingly innocent surveys which resemble anonymous questionnaires.
Another solution I have tried is to respond to the surveys. You must think I'm crazy? No, Machiavellian. And I freely admit it. Faced with this dangerous intrusion, I chose to randomly give truthful and false answers to the different questions. And I invite you to do the same in order to distort the survey's results. MyHeritage will therefore be unable to exploit results which are erroneous.
But the best option for me remains the legalisation of genetic testing in France, with French and European legislation guaranteeing the protection of our personal genetic data.