A lawsuit has been filed in a Southern Illinois federal court against Ancestry.com for allegedly disclosing genetic information to an unauthorized third party.
According to the Madison-St. Clair Record, a class action complaint was filed on October 29th in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against Ancestry.com DNA, LLC, alleging violation of the Illinois Genetic Information Privacy Act. It was filed by a minor, identified as A.K., through his guardian, Kelsi Kingsley.
The plaintiffs are attempting to file the case as a class-action lawsuit for all Illinois residents whose genetic information was disclosed or released by Ancestry.com to Blackstone, Inc., a multinational private equity company that bought Ancestry last year in a $4.7 billion deal.
According to Illinois’ Genetic Information Privacy Act (GIPA), genetic testing and information derived from genetic testing are confidential and may only be released to those specifically authorized. The plaintiff claims that when Blackstone acquired Ancestry.com in late 2020, Ancestry.com also disclosed on its website that users’ genetic information would be released and/or disclosed to Blackstone for its use. In the complaint, the plaintiff claims Ancestry.com failed to let them or any of its users know how they could prevent such information from being shared. Additionally, the plaintiff says Ancestry.com did not get their written consent to share such information, which they say violates GIPA.
The suit further alleges that Blackstone acquired all of the accompanying information gathered by Ancestry.com, including personal information that could be used to identify individual plaintiffs, including first and last names, email addresses, and/or home addresses, including age and gender in some instances.
The plaintiffs seek an order declaring the defendant’s actions as violating GIPA, an injunction requiring the defendant to comply with GIPA, statutory damages of $15,000 for each willful or reckless violation of GIPA, statutory damages of $2,500 for each negligent violation of GIPA, or actual damages — whichever is greater — attorney’s fees, court costs, interest and all other relief the court deems just.
WICS Newschannel 20 reports that Ancestry responded with the following comment on the suit: “Ancestry believes this suit is without merit and will vigorously defend against these baseless claims.”
The case will be heard in court later this month.