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Thread: DNAeXplained vs. semargl.me

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    DNAeXplained vs. semargl.me

    The semargl.me Y-DNA database and website is currently down in response to this screed against it by DNAeXplained. For those who don't know, DNAeXplained is in partnership with FTDNA to offer personalized DNA reports (at a rather steep cost), while semargl.me is an amateur database that mines Y-DNA data from publicly available sources and lists and maps it in helpful ways. The gist of DNAeXplained's complaint against semargl.me is that data mining is unethical, it causes websites to become overloaded, and may violate copyright. Also, rape and genocide. (The screed is a bit over the top.)

    So, I'm curious what people here think. Is data mining publicly available genetic data ethical? Should semargl.me stay up or shut down?
    Last edited by sparkey; 07-04-14 at 19:19.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    The semargl.me Y-DNA database and website is currently down in response to this screed against it by DNAeXplained. For those who don't know, DNAeXplained is in partnership with FTDNA to offer personalized DNA reports (at a rather steep cost), while semargl.me is an amateur database that mines Y-DNA data from publicly available sources and lists and maps it in helpful ways. The gist of DNAeXplained's complaint against semargl.me is that data mining is unethical, it causes websites to become overloaded, and may violate copyright. Also, rape and genocide. (The screed is a bit over the top.)

    So, I'm curious what people here think. Is data mining publicly available genetic data ethical? Should semargl.me stay up or shut down?
    I think this says it all as far as I'm concerned..." this screen scraping/data harvesting of Family Tree DNA project data is an ethics violation in the strongest terms and if this activity had been undertaken by someone within the US or within reach of the US via copyright treaty, it would be prosecutable under copyright laws." Also, if proved, the actions of some of these administrators might appear, at first glance, to be against the guidelines of FTDNA, and if the company wants to maintain its integrity, then it might have to consider disciplinary action. They need some lawyers over there.

    I would never recommend testing with Family Tree DNA to any of my relatives or acquaintances for precisely these reasons. I don't even know if 23andme is safe. I was sent a copy of a screen shot where some people were boasting on a public website that they were trawling through that data as well, or at least did for a while.

    It amazes me that people don't know, for example, that detailed mtDNA results reveal a great deal of health related data which for any number of reasons someone might not want made public. Personally, I don't understand why someone would test and self-publish detailed results for this marker under a real surname.

    Y DNA might be less problematical, but I always believe in being cautious about these things.

    (I do realize that my attitudes are partly influenced by the fact that I have limited interest in genealogy. Had some older relatives not done my family trees, they would have gone undone. I'm even less interested in uniparental markers in terms of my individual genealogy. While I would like to know my father's markers for curiosity's sake, the only dna that I'm interested in, in terms of my own "identity", are the autosomal results anyway.)


    And who are these people anyway, who are pawing about in other people's dna results?

    Let me be clear...I make no accusations about any of the people involved with this organization or any of the FTDNA administrators, and am not impugning their characters or motives. No doubt they are totally legit, disinterested genetics researchers.

    However, what they can do, others can do. The Holocaust was only about seventy years ago. What would Hitler and his crew have given for dna results that showed that "X" person is full or half or one quarter Ashkenazi, or bears typical Ashkenazi uniparental markers, or gypsy markers, or African ones, or whatever group is disfavored. Those kinds of people still exist, and some of them are active in Russia today, and not just in Russia.

    As you can tell, I don't 'do' trust, certainly not in the public domain, and I've found it stands me in good stead. I'm also a big believer in property rights, and that includes my own body.


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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    The semargl.me Y-DNA database and website is currently down in response to this screed against it by DNAeXplained. For those who don't know, DNAeXplained is in partnership with FTDNA to offer personalized DNA reports (at a rather steep cost), while semargl.me is an amateur database that mines Y-DNA data from publicly available sources and lists and maps it in helpful ways. The gist of DNAeXplained's complaint against semargl.me is that data mining is unethical, it causes websites to become overloaded, and may violate copyright. Also, rape and genocide. (The screed is a bit over the top.)

    So, I'm curious what people here think. Is data mining publicly available genetic data ethical? Should semargl.me stay up or shut down?
    Ethics is in question here.

    Semargl only taking 67 markers or above for its site ...........and then another company on-selling ALL our records to another company for medical purposes. (DNAexplained was against this company as well ). Maybe DNAexplained is the heavy handed person for FTDNA, ............who knows.

    Where do we as "owners' of our markers want to be!
    có che un pòpoło no 'l defende pi ła só łéngua el xe prónto par èser s'ciavo

    when a people no longer dares to defend its language it is ripe for slavery.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    The semargl.me Y-DNA database and website is currently down in response to this screed against it by DNAeXplained. For those who don't know, DNAeXplained is in partnership with FTDNA to offer personalized DNA reports (at a rather steep cost), while semargl.me is an amateur database that mines Y-DNA data from publicly available sources and lists and maps it in helpful ways. The gist of DNAeXplained's complaint against semargl.me is that data mining is unethical, it causes websites to become overloaded, and may violate copyright. Also, rape and genocide. (The screed is a bit over the top.)

    So, I'm curious what people here think. Is data mining publicly available genetic data ethical? Should semargl.me stay up or shut down?

    I don't think this whole action has anything to do with ethics, it's just DNAeXplained and FTDNA trying to protect their commercial interests.

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    I think that a little less heat and a lot more light is in order. These issues, in law-aiding countries, anyway, are governed by...the law.

    If I contract with company X to provide me a service, and am given a guarantee of privacy, and that contractual obligation is violated, I have a cause of action under contract law. Also, if, through the negligence or negligence per se of said company, a privacy right either explicit or implied is violated, and I suffer damages as a result, I have a cause of action under tort law against said company. Of course, practically speaking, I can allege damages even though a court proceeding might ultimately show I have sustained no such damages. Indeed, I might bring a suit which ultimately fails on the merits even as to the contract right or negligence involved, or the privacy right asserted to exist, and there are no repercussions so long as it wasn't a frivolous lawsuit. This is enough to cause companies to expend tremendous resources in litigation.

    Obviously, no well run company or university would want that. Therefore, they should and do request consent forms for the use of data. They also should and do request that people who provide services to them, whether paid or voluntary, sign confidentiality agreements stipulating that if the staff person or volunteer abridges anyone's privacy, that person's access to confidential data would be terminated. Failure to obtain such agreements and to terminate a person's access could be taken by a court to be negligence per se.

    Now, not having seen the relevant documents, I don't know what representations as to privacy were made to the consumers of FTDNA or, what kind of agreements were signed by the employees or volunteers, or whether care was taken in drafting the relevant terms, and what kinds of provisions were made in the event the terms were violated, but that's the general way that it works.

    This particular issue is probably one that will ultimately be taken care of by market forces. If consumers become aware that their data is being handed over to unknown third parties by people acting under the auspices of the company, and they have a problem with that, they'll vote with their wallets and not buy the product. Then, nobody gets their data.

    It would have been a simple matter to request the relevant consents from the consumers, and the relevant confidentiality agreements not only from staff but from volunteers. University groups doing this kind of research in the U.S. do this all the time.

    Of course, none of this would stop somebody in Russia or China from surreptitiously accessing the data in these companies. That's a problem. If consumer Y's kit number and name and results for, say, the mtDNA show up on sites created by such people, and for some reason, the person suffers damages, what is their recourse? Their only recourse is to bring suit against the company which took the sample, if some representations as to privacy were made or could be held to have been implicit, and reasonable measures to ensure such privacy were not taken. So, it would behoove the companies in question, in my opinion, to make sure that they have elicited the proper consents, the proper confidentiality agreements, and have the proper, reasonable software safeguards. Then, it's up to the consumers to decide if their genetic genealogy interests outweigh the possible loss of their privacy.

    As for copyright law, this is irrelevant in the present instance as Russia is not a signatory to the relevant treaties. Just generally, however, this is a huge problem going forward, because Russia and other non-signatory countries are harboring people who are stealing someone else's intellectual property. So, you don't have to have the brains to come up with X...you can just steal it. Whether this case would ultimately fall under copyright protection were the people involved operating in countries that were signatories to the relevant treaties would be a matter for the courts of jurisdiction. To suggest, however, as I have seen in postings on other sites, that someone's expressed 'opinion' that behavior X could be construed as a violation of copyright law is libelous, is ludicrous. Lawyers express such opinions all the time. It's a great part of what they're paid to do. They then have to prove it in a court of law.

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