We’ve all seen the commercials about a guy who thinks he’s Irish, sends away his DNA for testing and finds out he is truly Italian — no wonder he preferred pasta to Guinness. But, did he know that when he sent his DNA, it would more than likely be stored in a database with all of his accompanying personal, identifiable information? Not likely! In the past decade, several companies have been coming on to the DNA/genetic testing scene in addition to the ones we are already very familiar with, such as: ancestry.com, 23andme.com etc.

The New York Times published a PSA style article about the serious privacy concerns as it relates to these business models. While they are promoted as a way to learn about your ancestors, heritage and family legacy, they don’t generally advertise their cost. Now, I don’t mean their dollars and cents cost, but the cost of your private, most imitate medical information being sold and/or stored for unknown and generally undisclosed purposes.

Compare and contrast sending away your DNA for testing to one of these companies, versus having your DNA tested by your family doctor for whatever purpose. Your family doctor is required to keep your personal, medical information private. Do you know what, if any, privacy laws govern that company? Have you considered or investigated that company’s privacy policy before mailing your DNA?

If you’re considering a mail-in DNA/genetic test, I would suggest you at least answer these questions for yourself: the who, what, where, why, when, and how.

  • Who are you dealing with? Do your research about the company you are going to be engaging.
  • What data do they collect?
  • Where is this data stored?
  • When, if ever, is it deleted/destroyed? And maybe most importantly,
  • How is it used?

Before you blindly allow anyone the keys to your genetic code, you should be sure you’re not giving away more than you bargained for.