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Are At-Home DNA Tests A Privacy Risk?

A lot of Americans are approaching this holiday season with an eye on the newest trend – take-home DNA kits. The Globe Newswire mentions that the genealogy products and services industry may surpass $3 billion in 2019. Each of these little kits cost less than $100 and can offer insights into your ancestry. Finding the right test to fit your budget and your concerns is as simple as visiting a DNA review site. However, since you’re sending out a DNA testing kit in the mail to a remote location, is the information you send out with it secure?

Sending Away a Part of Yourself

Most of these kits require some of your DNA as a sample for testing. The US Library of Medicine mentions that the sample that the test uses comes from either saliva or a swab from the inside of the person’s cheek. The data you send out to the testing location seems innocuous. No one is going to want your spit or your cheek scrapings, right? The issue here isn’t that someone will take the sample, but that someone will get a complete copy of your DNA genetic code.

The Importance of DNA to You

Deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly referred to as DNA, is the building block of all life, according to Life Science. Within the double-helix molecule is all the information that someone would need if they were to try to make a copy of you. Indeed, human cloning is still within the realm of science fiction. Again, all that information in your DNA code offers insights into you that no amount of data mining on Facebook could ever produce. While legitimate genetic testing centers don’t give away user data without consent, how can you be sure that you’re getting an authorized genetic testing center?

Agreements are Important

Before sending in the sample to be analyzed, most users are required to sign a consent form. Too few users bother to read the entire document throughout. While you may be able to get away with merely clicking “agree” on a software terms-of-use document, the data contained within a genetic test is a bit more sensitive. Citigen mentions that many genetic testing companies include fine print in their agreements, including how the company intends to use the customer data supplied to them. As the adage goes, you seldom get anything for free, and that includes a list of your ancestors.

Selling Genetic Data is Big Business

Axois mentions that DNA testing companies don’t just collect and contain your data on their database, but are actively involved in selling that information to drug companies and other interested parties. An application called Helix is the centralized vendor hub for this genetic data. While the DNA kit companies are happy to sell a product to a willing populace, not many of them are eager to advise the consumer about what potential uses their data is likely to have.

Risking Yourself as a Person?

While technology hasn’t advanced to the point where a genetic testing kit could provide data to make a complete copy of you as yet, the sale of genetic data is a cause for alarm. The information that makes you up as a person is being bought and sold. What’s more, you don’t have any rights to that information. There is no legislation in place to give individuals the right to their personal genetic material. Until such legislation is drafted, the best you can do to protect yourself is to read the agreements that the companies provide to you thoroughly. They aren’t always clear and concise, but they do inform you of what they intend to do with the data. Signing one isn’t as dramatic as selling your soul, but as technology advances, it may have an even more immediate impact than an agreement with the underworld.