By Kristin V. Brown
You probably wouldn’t hand out your social security number without having a pretty good idea of how that information was going to be used, right? That would be dumb. It’s extremely sensitive information. And yet, the consumer genetic testing market is booming thanks to people readily giving up another piece of their identity: their genetic code.
Ever-cheaper DNA sequencing technology has allowed genetic testing to become far more than a tool for doctors. Genetic testing has become entertainment, with companies offering tests that provide insight into ancestry, athletic ability, sleep habits and much more. The consumer genetic testing market was valued at $70 million in 2015, but estimates expect it to expand to $340 million by 2022.
When you spit in a test tube in in hopes of finding out about your ancestry or health or that perfect, genetically optimized bottle of wine, you’re giving companies access to some very intimate details about what makes you, you. Your genes don’t determine everything about who you are, but they do contain revealing information about your health, relationships, personality, and family history that, like a social security number, could be easily abused. Not only that—your genes reveal all of that information about other people you’re related to, too.
Picture: School of Natural Resources from Ann Arbor (DNA lab) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons