The News Today
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9.27.20
Personal Data

A Private Equity Firm Just Bought the Largest Consumer DNA Database

August 5th 20__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Future Society
UMSEAS/Victor Tangermann

Changing Hands

The consumer DNA testing company Ancestry just sold for $4.7 billion dollars.

Its new owners? The private equity firm Blackstone, which is now the new majority owner of the largest consumer database of human genetic and genealogical information in the world. Companies are bought and sold all the time, but this acquisition reveals just how little control people who took DNA tests have over their own intimate data.

Big Data

According to a Blackstone press release, Ancestry pulls in about $1 billion every year — from new tests, but also its $50 per month subscription service that lets users build and analyze a genetic family tree. It’s not surprising, then, that private equity would want to get in on that recurring revenue.

“Ancestry’s large network of highly engaged users, unique content, and scaled technology platform have made it a market leader,” Blackstone managing director Sachin Bavishi said in the release. “We look forward to contributing Blackstone’s resources and leveraging our strong expertise in digital content to further accelerate Ancestry’s growth.”

Buyer Beware

Sales like these can be jarring for customers who took a DNA test and uploaded their results. When that data starts being bought and sold over the years, those customers become increasingly removed from what can be done with their genetic information.

For example, those who just wanted to learn where their ancestors came from could find that cops were poking around in their personal data. Or, more tangibly, they might suddenly face workplace discrimination based on their DNA.

READ MORE: Blackstone to Acquire Ancestry®, Leading Online Family History Business, for $4.7 Billion [Blackstone]

More on genetic privacy: Experts: Corporations Could Do Terrible Things With Your DNA