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Padlock attached to a DNA strand on a blue background.

Kylie Charles spent years carefully weighing the pros and cons of genetic testing until her curiosity got the better of her. The 36-year-old writer yearned to know more about her distant father and his family history. All she knew was what he had told her, and it wasn’t much. It had been nearly 14 years since he last wrote her, and years more since they spoke, when Charles chose to carve out the missing fragments of her genetic history for herself.

While the process of producing a sufficient saliva sample and sending it off was tediously routine, Charles was unusual among the millions looking for answers about their family history in wanting to know what could happen to her DNA data after all is sequenced and settled.

Charles, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her anonymity, is not your average consumer. She was so concerned about maintaining her privacy that when she finally settled on using AncestryDNA, a subsidiary of, in March, she did so under a fabricated name for fear that her genetic information might somehow...