We reveal online DNA tests are waste of moneyThey won’t unlock your family history

04 July 2008

family on a laptop

Expensive online DNA testing services are a waste of money that won't unlock the secrets of your past, Which? Computing can reveal.

The magazine submitted the same two DNA samples - one male and one female - to four web-based DNA testing companies.

The companies - Ancestory.co.uk, DNA Solutions, Oxford Ancestors and 23andMe - claim they can use the DNA to reveal someone’s ancestry and chart their heritage.

But the services – which cost between £75 and £510 - provided little more than a piece of paper mapping their origin.

DNA blueprint

One company, 23andMe, seemed to be hedging its bets when it said that the DNA sample came from somebody of Polish, Arab or Irish decent.

A DNA blueprint is unique so companies testing the same sample should get the same results.

But there were actually discrepancies in the results for the male volunteer from two companies, DNA Solutions and Oxford Ancestors.

Oxford Ancestors explained this by saying it used a different coding system which meant some markers would be labelled differently.

Privacy

Which? Computing also discovered privacy issues in the small print.

Companies could store samples of DNA for up to 20 years, share data with other organisations that conduct similar research and share results online.

There isn't a code of practice or regulatory body for this kind of DNA testing.

The Human Genetics Commission believes such testing ‘should be subject to an appropriate level of oversight’ and is paying particular attention to how long companies keep DNA samples.

Genealogy

Which? Computing editor Sarah Kidner said: ‘Interest in genealogy has increased massively due to programmes like "Who do you think you are" but people need to be wary of DNA testing services.

‘It’s unlikely that any of the information we received would help in researching a family tree. In fact, the results are so vague it’s almost the equivalent of telling someone what their star sign is.’