Taking do-it-yourself DNA tests from providers found online is a growing trend nowadays, as, by the end of the decade, the direct-to-consumer lab testing market is expected to reach $350 million.
Some of the purposes for these DNA tests are finding out where one’s ancestors come from, what health dangers are hidden in our genes or even if a child is truly ours.
Why is this happening, though? Why are people, suddenly, looking for their origins? Perhaps they feel that in an increasingly globalized world, we, as individuals are losing our identities and need to belong to a group or maybe it’s quite the opposite: we want to stand out from an apparently homogenous society.
Regardless of our reasons for taking these tests, though, one thing is clear. As for anything that’s too good or simple to be true, there are risks involved.
We are not talking about the accuracy of these tests, because others, more qualified on the matter, have tackled this subject thoroughly.
We are however discussing something one should always be careful about: online privacy.
Why would anyone be interested in your genetic data?
Your genetic data reveals precious information about you, more precious than you think. Drug companies, insurers and sometimes police would love to have a sneak peek into those.
Once you put your cheek swab in the mailbox, you are willingly sending a valuable copy of your genetic data to a group of strangers who can do as they please with your information. You may have signed a privacy agreement, but since this is a commercial service and not an academic research project, things can change overnight, as companies get bought, and your data could get sold along with that transaction.