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.
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.