April is Genealogy month, and almost all of us are curious about the intricacies of our family histories. There are several very popular services that will tell you about your family history going back several hundred years, some may even give you information about your personality traits based on genetics and for a price you can even obtain genetic related health information. But when you send away your DNA sample, do you know what you’re really signing up for?
When you send off your sample and pay the fee, the company testing your DNA owns all the information they provide you with, including the entire sequence of your DNA. Security experts are throwing caution, even if these companies do not misuse your information, we’ve seen increases in hacking and cyber crime lately which could become even more intrusive if on top of a social media profile, financial & personal information, and now a set of DNA to go along with all that information. The right person could assemble this information to get a more complete, more revealing likeness of you that you never intended anyone to have.
Even worse, these companies will own your information even after you’re deceased; this means that the companies could use this information in association with your children or grandchildren in ways we may not even be able to comprehend at the present time. If sequences of your DNA are identified to be at an increased risk for certain health events or maladies, this could potentially affect future opportunities for you as well including life insurance and a range of other opportunities we’re yet to understand. It’s also worth mentioning that the health information these tests claim reveal to you is actually much more complex than breaking it down to the presence of just one gene. There is one exception to this, knowing you have a predisposition to certain cancers may actually help your doctor’s detect the disease earlier, create a better treatment and give you a better outcome.
Although there are many risks, there could still be much to gain by taking these tests. Individuals taking the popular DNA tests have reported benefits, like discovering new family members and where they live. For many people, this means unlocking a close relationship they did not even know they had; for others it could mean uncovering a family history they’ve been trying to piece together for a lifetime, and still others will find exciting new connections which was lost through time.