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Most White Americans’ DNA Can Be Identified Through Genealogy Databases

The genetic genealogy industry is booming. In recent years, more than 15 million people have offered up their DNA — a cheek swab, some saliva in a test-tube — to services such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com in pursuit of answers about their heritage. In exchange for a genetic fingerprint, individuals may find a birth parent, long-lost cousins, perhaps even a link to Oprah or Alexander the Great.But as these registries of genetic identity grow, it’s becoming harder for individuals to retain any anonymity. Already, 60 percent of Americans of Northern European descent — the primary group using these sites — can be identified through such databases whether…

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Why Is This Happening: Content for Humans About the Content of Humans

This hunch — that maybe genes and genres share more than some etymological roots — resulted in a number of strange and illuminating projects, mostly for demonstration purposes, including one that created playlists of songs that are unusually popular in a given country relative to the rest of the world, called “The Sounds of Places.” There is no sign of this in the Spotify and Ancestry collaboration, either. (Although, to be fair, as part of the promotion, Ancestry does ask users to “Connect to Spotify to explore the diversity in your listening history and discover music from around the world.” This will give you a list of your…

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Are Genetic Testing Sites the New Social Networks?

Sherri Tredway, 55, is a marketing and development director for a social service agency based in Washington, Ind. She was adopted as a baby, and in January she drove two and a half hours to Bowling Green, Ky., to meet her biological half sister, Patty Roberts-Freeman, 60, with whom she connected through AncestryDNA. Ms. Roberts-Freeman needed an outfit for a wedding, so they arranged to meet at a shopping mall to find one together. They started in the food court, where they bought sodas and talked for over an hour about their mother, their current lives, their upbringings. They then went to a Belk department store, where…

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Critic’s Notebook: The Racial Spectacle of DNA Test Result Videos

It’s probably not a coincidence that these mechanisms of biological self-discovery are on the rise now, amid seething tensions over racism, immigration and what constitutes a “real American.” White supremacists are drawn to DNA testing to prove their racial purity, excitedly publicizing their exclusively European ancestries (or else dismissing any trace of outside DNA as a Jewish conspiracy.) But progressive white people seem to be using these services in a different way: as methods for performing racial harmony and assuaging white guilt.These DNA spectacles offer a rare public forum where people of all backgrounds are encouraged to talk about their heritages in very similar ways, with a…

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