Grace Kim LACES 11th Grade
“Uncover your ethnic origins - and discover the DNA of America.” - AncestryDNA
Many home DNA testing kit companies have made such grand proposals to allow their customers to dig into their family heritage, test for genetic diseases, and explore the information hiding in their DNA just by sending the company a saliva sample. These promising tests have attracted many, as seven million people have already sent their samples to AncestryDNA, which is one of the world’s leading DNA testing kit companies. With larger, credible companies, the high expectations of buyers have been mainly satisfactory. Past customers left raving reviews about their satisfaction, and new ones continue to purchase these kits.
Unfortunately, discovering your own genetic makeup is still a new service and without proper regulations, your privacy could be at risk. While there are many privacy acts for systems that have been around for a while, such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for medical patients, there aren’t any set laws protecting your information that you send. A large skepticism that the scientific community has expressed is that sending your genetic information also makes it available to those willing to pay for it. Corporations, researchers, and even the police could access your DNA without your explicit consent due to broad reaching ‘Terms and Conditions’ that are meant to be read when ordering a testing kit.
While companies would probably buy genetic information to market to potential customers, there are other situations that could lead to potential issues for people in the long-term. For example, those who have insurance may have to pay higher rates if their genetic information reveals that they have predispositions to certain diseases and insurance companies have paid to see this information. In a more extreme situation, someone who is on a list for an organ transplant may be removed or put further down the list because of their genetic profile that the hospital has gotten a hold of. With sending off your private genetic information, there is a plethora of problems that you wouldn’t want to run into.
The time to try these home testing kits may not be now, but there are future options being created at the moment. Molecular biologist, George Church, has recently revealed that his new company, Nebula Genomics, would allow people to essentially rent their DNA out to research groups and companies to gain cryptocurrencies. This would still allow people to maintain control over their information.
Michelle Thayer, LACES AP Biology teacher, is hopeful that “there will come a time where laws or regulations will catch up with this new technology. Once those protections are in place, then I think it would be safe to go forward. But, until there are protections in place to protect the person who is sending their genetic information in from having it exploited for whatever reason, I would be very cautious.”
<Grace Kim LACES 11th Grade