Proposed change to our privacy policy

As I was writing the section of our 10th anniversary newsletter on understanding your test results, I realized that our project privacy policy is getting in the way of understanding our results and connecting with other project members. I hadn't noticed it earlier because I am able to recognize many of the names and kit numbers, and if I need to I can look them up using the tools from FamilyTreeDNA for project administrators.

In this article, I'll explain the problem and propose a change to our privacy policy that will hopefully fix the problem without exposing too much of our information to the public. I realize that this sounds more ominous than it is. You might not know that our policy is so strict and have no problem with the proposed change. But I take privacy issues very seriously, so even this modest change must be explained and reviewed by our membership.

The policy I'm referring to is that participant names are never shown on anything that I, as project administrator, create. The two places where this is an issue is in the customized results table displayed at our website,, and in the family group sheets linked from that table. In the results table, we list just the kit number and the surname of the paticipant. Both of these are in the table generated by FamilyTreeDNA, and is the same as the table always presented at our project page on their site. In our customized version, all I do is wrap HTML code around the kit number to link to our family group sheets.

In the family group sheets, instead of the real name of the participant I use their kit number as their first name. For example, in the family group sheets, I am 8653 Hadley. My living relatives are similarly disguised using my kit number. My brother is Brother 8653 Hadley.

So what's the problem? When you look at your y-DNA matches at your FamilyTreeDNA page, you are shown the matching person's name and their email address, as long as they have checked the box authorizing release of this information. There are very few who have not authorized this. (By the way, I have not way to contact a person who matches me but has not checked the box, even as project administrator).

When you see that someone matches you, particularly if they are a step or two distant, you likely want to look at their results on the results table. There you will see differences highlighted on the chart. But you don't know their kit number.

I don't want to complicate things with too much background information, so you can skip this paragraph if you want. At one time, the match list didn't give names, just email addresses. They might have shown kit numbers at one point too, but I don't remember. There was a policy change somewhere along the line that let FamilyTreeDNA show the actual names in the match list. Our project rules have not changed.

To facilitate communication among project members and to make it possible to relate our y-DNA match list to the results charts, both our customized chart and the automatic charts at the FamilyTreeDNA site, I suggest the following change to our policy.

On the customized results table, which links to our family group sheets, we will show the name of the participant, as it appears on your FamilyTreeDNA registration, and as it appears on the y-DNA match list.

The names in the family group sheets will continue to use the kit number. If you want to relate the kit number back to a name, you can go to the results table, which will show both.

I have confirmed that this change does not conflict with the FamilyTreeDNA rules for project administrators. I will send this proposal to all participants through the FamilyTreeDNA bulk mailing process, but wanted any of you reading the newsletter articles to have a preview.

If you have any questions or concerns about this, please email me.