Monday, March 19, 2018

DNA and Privacy

When my kids gifted my husband and I DNA testing kits, we both got a tad nervous.  Not so much because we feared what might be revealed about our past (what’s done, is done and it all got us to a good spot in life), but more we feared what that DNA might all be used for.

Could it ever be used against us in a court of law? To identify us, when we’d rather not be known? To hike the cost of life or medical insurance, should genetic weakness show up?

Could it foreseeably connect us to relatives we’d rather not connect with? Could it connect us with Crime? With lawsuits? With parental issues?

The kit did come with a questionnaire where you can choose to approve their request to use your DNA for further research (we declined and asked our sample be destroyed after testing). You can also choose how much of your information will get shared on their website, and with whom. Part of their service is to connect you, via your DNA results, with other Ancestry members who have been DNA tested. I declined sharing any of my results, although I did allow them to list for me others whom I'm potentially related to.

You can also choose to download the raw data from their lab, but unless one is a genetic scientist, it would be hard to decipher what the data means. Also, once you request that download, no longer vouches for the security and privacy of your results—because, presumably, they can’t monitor who you decide to share the information with and how securely you go about sharing it.

If this all sounds a bit paranoid, it perhaps is. Because where ever one goes, one leaves behind one’s DNA. Just swab my fork after I dine at Tony Roma’s and my DNA profile is yours.

It’s that fact, that led me to give in to my curiosity, spit in the vial, and ship it off the lab in Ireland.

Let’s face it—there are no secrets anymore.

DNA and Privacy has been brought to you by Schrodinger’s Cat—Trapped in two universes, two simultaneous lives. In one, her child is dying.

Eileen Schuh, Author 
Schrödinger's Cat
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