13-million-person family tree created from genealogy databases

Signal of change / 13-million-person family tree created from genealogy databases

By Shola Powell / 12 Apr 2018

Yaniv Erlich, a geneticist at Columbia University has recently created a 13-million-person family tree thanks to his work with MyHeritage, a genealogy company. Erlich used the data from public profiles on the crowdsourced genealogy website Geni.com to create the tree, and has been dubbed the “genome hacker” for his work to identify certain study participants using only public information from consumer genealogy databases.


So what?

Erlich’s work has inspired change in how policymakers view privacy regarding big-data genetics research, and although he personally does not consider having one’s geneology public risky (having published his own online), Erlich emphasises that MyHeritage takes matters of privacy very seriously, using data only from public profiles, allowing users to delete profiles as well as delete their DNA data, which is then washed away in the lab. Yaniv Erlich is also very excited about the potential revelations that could be revealed from overlaying DNA information on top of family trees to study genes implicated in disease.



What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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