Dug Campbell

Consumer DNA Testing: Why?

Why would you ever take part in consumer DNA testing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to know as much as anyone about some of my ancestry. To dig out any to date unknown skeletons in the generational closet. To learn more about that South American bloodline…

But when it comes to the vast quantities of data that have been generated by consumer DNA testing over the past few years, the implications are significant. Somewhat reminiscent of the way that Facebook tracks you even if you don’t have an account (I guess we all know that by now – but if you didn’t…yes, you read that correctly), the reality as shown by a recent study is that the data that’s been collected can now identify the majority of people in the US of European descent (6 out of 10) who haven’t ever given a sample.

It’s a fascinating area and that’s appealing to many for a whole raft of reasons. But giving personal data – and not only personal data but arguably the single most personally descriptive data that exists in the world – to a startup chasing the rocket ship to global domination has so many problems for anyone who has any requirements for privacy today (or, more importantly, ever again).

The combination of genetic data with other personal information can lead to unwanted consequences. And that’s before you even start thinking about how one of these startups could possibly be better placed to defend itself from hacks of your genetic records when much larger companies are incapable of doing so.

If you want to read something scary, try taking a look through some of terms and conditions provided by companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Basically, the companies retain the right to share your genetic information in some circumstances with third parties for research and business purposes.

It’s not too fantastic a jump to move from here towards a requirement for job interview DNA testing that are used to identify recruits with the propensity to develop in certain ways (which doesn’t feel a million miles away from being arrested for pre-crimes a la Minority Report)