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Is testing your ancestry safe? We checked out these DNA kits

Rachel Mirakova | The Ticker

For instance, DNA can determine whether a person is more likely to fall prone to diseases like diabetes based on biomarkers. Results like these can help inform consumers about health concerns and consequently, help prevent them. 

Privacy is the main concern with DNA kits, according to an article in Engadget. Unlike a DNA kit, a doctor’s visit would yield more privacy when sharing genetic results under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws. 

Privacy laws state that the information of a patient’s health should not be shared “without the patient’s consent.” 

DNA companies on their websites each have their own set of guidelines when it comes to privacy and it can change. 

Many companies claim they will not share your information and will do their best to guard it. 

Some go as far as to state that they will safeguard it from law enforcement unless ruled by a court order. 

Yet, big names like 23andMe have made $300 million deals with GlaxoSmithKline, a British pharmaceutical company, in exchange for data. 

FamilyTreeDNA has also admitted to sharing genetic data with law enforcement.

One option to avoid genetic data from being shared is for consumers to quickly ask for their DNA and genetic results to be destroyed. 

This can be done through contacting the customer service of the company and removing your account or requesting removal directly through customer service. 

This might not guarantee the data is completely gone, as it might have already been shared with other outlets before it had been destroyed.

 In response to FamilyTreeDNA changing its terms of service, a law professor from the University of California tweeted that the “first rule of data: once you hand it over, you lose control of it.”

In 2019, over 26 million people have taken a DNA test, according to an article in MIT Technology Review. In total, there are around 100 million people who have submitted their DNA to companies like 23andMe. 

That might seem like a big number but there is the likelihood of discrepancies. 

What is truly worrisome is the connections companies can make between consumers and people who never submitted their DNA. 

DNA is analyzed is through a chip that looks at the formation of the DNA and compares it to several other basic formations. 

After successfully finding DNA traits shared among a region, it states how related the consumer is to that region.  

 Airbnb has partnered up with 23andMe to allow users to locate traveling areas after they receive their DNA results. This means DNA data is being shared to companies for financial profit and gain. 

As privacy diminishes, it becomes harder to obtain or maintain it, leaving us to question whether it really exists at all. 

Is finding out your historical background really worth your genetic makeup being shared to multiple outlets? Or does the ability to get notified of possible future health concerns outweigh the concerns of privacy? 

As people grow curious and therefore more inclined to take DNA kits, it is important to remember there is always the old-fashioned way, through a doctor’s appointment.

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