Ancestry’s Database Of People’s DNA Was Just Bought For Nearly $5 Billion
Ancestry’s treasure trove of people’s DNA all across the world has just been sold for nearly $5 billion.
Blackstone, a private equity firm, acquired the global genealogy company for a ‘total enterprise value of $4.7 billion’, thereby moving Ancestry’s assets from several other firms.
In a press release on August 5, the firm wrote it had ‘reached a definitive agreement’ to acquire the family history business from Silver Lake, GIC, Spectrum Equity, Permira, and other equity holders, with GIC retaining a ‘significant minority stake’ at 25%.
According to the company’s website, Ancestry ‘harnesses the information found in family trees, historical records, and DNA to help people gain a new level of understanding about their lives’.
It has more than three million paying subscribers, 100 million family trees, 27 billion records, and more than 18 million people who have been DNA tested. It also has an annual revenue of more than $1 billion.
However, Blackstone’s acquisition isn’t cause for concern, as a spokesperson told Vice:
To be crystal clear, Blackstone will not have access to user data and we are deeply committed to ensuring strong consumer privacy protections at the company. We will not be sharing user DNA and family tree records with our portfolio companies.
A spokesperson for Ancestry added: ‘Ancestry’s terms and conditions and privacy statement that is in effect for our users remains the same and Ancestry’s commitments to protect our customers’ personal data has not changed.’
It’s evidently more of a fiscal-leaning investment than one with a motive, as David Kestnbaum, a senior managing director at Blackstone, explained: ‘We look forward to investing behind further data, functionality, and product development across Ancestry’s market leading platform to continue to provide a differentiated service.’
DNA kits and family trees have exploded in popularity in recent years. However, Jen King, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Internet and Society, explained that ‘ultimately there’s no specific protections for that data’ you hand over.
King added: ‘So you kind of just have to rely on the companies to say they’ll do what they’re going to do and honor their promises and not sell off your data to the highest bidder if they go bankrupt or what have you.’
Further to concerns that the equity firm could use the records to discriminate against tenants across its real estate portfolio, Matt Anderson, managing director of global public affairs at Blackstone, told Gizmodo: ‘We are deeply committed to following all fair housing laws and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.’
Anderson added: ‘Furthermore, Blackstone itself will not have access to this data and we will never – repeat never – share it between these two businesses.’
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