Friday, April 3, 2015

Does Ancestry think we are NOT OK?

I find Ancestry's DNA Circles intriguing and really enjoy seeing a green leaf match on my DNA results page. However, I do object to Ancestry's patronizing attitude toward its customer base. "Trust me" is not an endearing phrase when uttered by a used car salesman. That kind of response is no more endearing when it comes from a lab you have paid to analyze your DNA. Yet "trust me" is exactly what we are asked to do when Ancestry announces we have a DNA match.

We are told that Ancestry has "Confidence Extremely High" that they have identified a 1st to 2nd cousin (see above) but we have to take that on faith. We cannot see the total number of cMs that match with this alleged relative or the length or location of our longest matching segment. Ancestry does not think customers who paid for the test need this information. It would be nice to see if others match us on exactly that same segment but Ancestry does not want to confuse us with that information. After all the company seems to say, wouldn't customer supplied pedigree charts be a better way to document matches with our relatives than would be precise chromosome locations? :-(

Why does it have to be either/or? Lots of us in the customer base would like to have both! It would simultaneously give us more value and give Ancestry more credibility.

For the last 15 years direct-to-customer (DTC) genetic testing for genealogical information has gradually been emerging from the chilling paternalistic concerns of the medical establishment about letting civilians have direct access to our own genetic data. This information is taken from with the cells in our own bodies. We have been making progress on a number of fronts -- including US Supreme Court decisions that corporations cannot patent natural genes. Now in the last three years Ancestry is trying to exert a paternalism of its own over access to our personal genetic information. 

Many of you remember the 1969 bestseller I'm OK You're OK.

It was based on the Transaction Analysis model of Eric Berne. You may remember that we were trained to analyze communication transactions using diagrams similar to the one below. It seems clear to me that Ancestry sees transactions with customers as them (the Parent) giving us (the Child) the information they think we need and are able to handle without us asking too many hard questions that might overload tech support about it.

If this analysis of our communication pattern with AncestryDNA is correct, Ancestry sees it as Ancestry is OK but we the customers are NOT OK. This seems to be in direct contrast to Anne Wojcicki's stated goal for 23andMe to empower us by providing us with access to our own genetic information and thereby change the face of health care. 

As rumors are beginning to fly that Ancestry is exploring the possibility of providing health related information from our DNA, I wonder what the business model would be for such an endeavor.

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