MyHeritage and 23andMe to Donate DNA Kits to Reunite Families

Two of the companies that make direct-to-consumer DNA test kits are offering free DNA tests to help reunite families that were separated from each other at the United States border. Both MyHeritage and 23andMe have started contacting relevant government agencies and non-profit legal aid organizations that are representing the families.

Genealogy and DNA testing have become intertwined, in part because DNA tests make it easier for genealogists to discover family members they were unaware of. Some adoptees use DNA testing as a way to find their biological parents. DNA testing can reconnect family members.

MyHeritage announced that they are expanding their pro bono initiative, DNA Quest, to help parents who were detained at the US border to reunite with their children. MyHeritage is pledging 5,000 additional free DNA tests for separated parents and children who are interested in this opportunity.

MyHeritage has been contacting relevant government agencies and NGOs that are able to provide assistance with distribution of the DNA kits to parents in detainment facilities and to their children placed in temporary custody. The DNA results will be processed by MyHeritage and not shared with any third parties.

One June 22, 2018, BuzzFeed News reported: “California Rep. Jackie Speier is asking 23andMe, a popular DNA testing company, to help reunite children separated from their parents under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.”

Anne Wojcicki, CEO and Co-Founder of 23andMe, posted a tweet on June 21, 2018. The tweet said: “We’ve heard from many of our customers that they would like to see 23andMe help reunite family members that were tragically separated from each other. Connecting and uniting families is core to the mission of 23andMe. We would welcome any opportunity to help.”

This was followed by another tweet: “It’s inspiring to see the massive outreach around helping these families. 23AndMe has offered to donate kits and resources to do the genetic testing to help reconnect children with their parents. We are waiting to see the best way to follow up and make it happen.”

Anne Wojcicki also tweeted: “To assist in reuniting families, we intend to offer our genetic testing services through non-profit legal aid orgs representing the families. We recognize that genetic data contains highly personal information and we want to ensure the data is only used for reuniting families.”

Mother Jones posted an article that points out some of the potential problems that could arise from DNA testing to match families. It may be difficult to guarantee proper consent and to prevent the misuse of data after it has been collected.

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