When it comes to ways to learn about your DNA, Promethease’s service seemed like one of the safest. They promised anonymity, and to delete your report after 45 days. But now that MyHeritage has bought the company, users are being notified that their DNA data is now on MyHeritage. Wait, what?
It turns out that even though Promethease deleted reports as promised after 45 days, if you created an account, the service held onto your raw data. You now have a MyHeritage account, which you can delete if you like. Check your email. That’s how I found out about mine.
What Promethease does
A while back, I downloaded my raw data from 23andme and gave it to Promethease to find out what interesting things might be in my DNA. Ever since 23andme stopped providing detailed health-related results in 2013, Promethease was a sensible alternative. They used to charge $5 (now up to $12, but that’s still a steal) and they didn’t attempt to explain your results to you. Instead, you could just see what SNPs you had—those are spots where your DNA differs from other people’s—and read on SNPedia, a sort of genetics wikipedia, about what those SNPs might mea
So this means Promethease had access to the raw file you gave it (which you would have gotten from 23andme, Ancestry, or another service), and to the report of SNPs that it created for you. You had the option of paying your fee, downloading your report, and never dealing with the company again; or you could create an account so that you could “regenerate” your report in the future without having to pay again. That means they stored your raw DNA file.
Because your DNA contains information about your whole family, by uploading your DNA you also upload their DNA, making it a whole lot easier to de-anonymise their DNA. It’s a bit like uploading a picture of your family to Facebook with the public settings on and then tagging them, even though the other family members on your picture aren’t on Facebook.