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This isnâ€™t about genetic genealogy or even genealogy, but itâ€™s too interesting to pass up.
A recent Fortune article titled â€œHow Facebook is taking over our livesâ€ points out that roughly 175 million people are members of Facebook, and that the total daily use of Facebook is over 3 billion minutes.
Here are some rough calculations using that 3 billion minutes per day value (and feel free to check my math, please!):Â three billion minutes equals 50 million hours, which equals 2.08 million days, which equals 5,707 years.
Thus, every single day humanity spends the equivalent of over 5,000 years on Facebook!
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In â€œCalled back to Africa by DNA,â€ journalist Teresa Watanabe highlights the recent surge of interest in the genetic genealogy by African Americans.Â This increased interest is often written about during February, which is Black History Month (see â€œGenetic Genealogy and Black History Monthâ€ from February 2008 and â€œDNA Testing Jumps During Black History Monthâ€ from February 2007).Â Although the LA times article rehashes some of the same issues, it also contributes a number of new points to the conversation.
Among other things, the article mentions several of the projects that focus on African American genetic genealogy, including African Ancestry:
The curiosity has fueled the growth of DNA testing outfits. African Ancestry Inc., a Washington-based firm, has tested the DNA of 15,000 people against its database of 25,000 African genetic lineages, according to its president, Gina M. Paige. The firm’s clients include Winfrey, film director Spike Lee, musician Quincy Jones, comedian Whoopi Goldberg and actors Morgan Freeman and Don Cheadle.
Peter Dizikes at Salon.com writes “Your DNA is a Snitch,” about privacy concerns surrounding genetic testing. Peter contacted me a little while ago and we talked about some of my thoughts on the topic. My opinion on the security measures at genetic testing companies was included in the story:
Early-adopting customers tend to agree [that genetic testing companies can protect personal information]. “They have every incentive to keep information private,” says Blaine Bettinger, a law student and genetics blogger in New York state and a 23andMe customer.” A security breach would be devastating for those companies.” Certainly well-funded firms like Navigenics and 23andMe can devote substantial resources to data protection.
Iâ€™ve been working on a presentation regarding the future of genetic genealogy, and one aspect of that future is the ability to trace DNA (SNPs, mutations, haplogroups, etcâ€¦) through recent history as the result of combining extensive genomic sequencing with massive family tree information.Â Although the ability to do this will have many uses (both for genealogy and for personalized medicine), it will also raise a number of privacy issues, as a recent paper suggests.
A New Privacy Study
In â€œInferential Genotyping of Y Chromosomes in Latter-Day Saints Founders and Comparison to Utah Samples in the HapMap Project,â€ author Jane Gitschier uses a combination of FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org) and Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (http://www.smgf.org/) to elucidate the Y-chromosome signature of two founders of the LDS Church.Â Gitschier then used that information to determine whether anyone who contributed DNA to the HapMap project was related to these individuals via the Y-chromosome (none appeared to be).Â However, Gitschier was able to predict the surname of many of the HapMap participants using these databases.
In November 2007 I estimated that as of that date 600,000 to 700,000 DNA testing kits had been sold by genetic genealogy companies and that the number was increasing by 80,000 to 100,000 kits per yearÂ (see â€œHow Big is the Genetic Genealogy Market?â€).Â I ended that article with a prediction:Â â€œAs the interest in genetic genealogy grows, I predict that the 1 millionth genetic genealogy customer will push the â€˜buyâ€™ button as early as 2009.â€
It seems my prediction might not have been too far off.Â This week, Family Tree DNA issued a press release stating that the company had recently received an order for the 500,000th testing kit.
FTDNA’s Press Release:
HOUSTON, February 9, 2009 (For Immediate Release) – Family Tree DNA (http://www.familytreedna.com), the world leader in genetic genealogy, announced today that it received its 500,000th DNA test order for genealogy and anthropology purposes.