The ConnecteDNA research project explores the impact of direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTCGT) on gamete (egg and sperm) donor conception. One of the implications of the increased popularity of DTCGT is that donors, donor-conceived people and parents through donor conception can share their (or their child’s) DNA data on DTCGT databases and, using the ‘matching’ function these sites offer, in combination with social media platforms and ‘official’ sources of information, sometimes very easily, and sometimes completely unexpectedly, identify unknown genetic relatives.
Drawing on semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with donors, donor-conceived people and parents through donor conception, we explore the power of the DTCGT companies, in combination with social media platforms, over bodily material re-incarnated into the internet. In that environment, DNA data is no longer an embodied blueprint, unknowable until it plays out in the space-time of someone’s life. Rather, DNA information in electronic form has, for donors, donor-conceived people, and their families, the power to interrupt, to radically (re)shape, or transform families. DTCGT, often marketed as harmless fun, is sometimes just that. However, DNA shared through DTCGT sites has relational consequences that can also shock, traumatise and cause deep rifts within family landscapes. Our research explores (whether and) how donors, donor-conceived people, and their families make sense of life after finding or uncovering information from DTCGT, and how they think the regulatory environment needs to change to offer protection for future families through donor conception.