October 11, 2019
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The Top 3 DNA Privacy Concerns: What You Really Need to Know

There are legitimate concerns about DNA test privacy. But, don’t just buy the hype. Learn the facts behind the top 3 DNA privacy concerns.
Tomohiro Takano

The advent of DNA testing opened up a whole new world. Where it once took a decade and 10 billion dollars to sequence a single person’s DNA, testing companies can now sequence the important parts of your DNA in only a few hours. Since millions of users are taking advantage of this science, organizations are building massive databases to hold DNA data.

Because of the massive amounts of data that now exist, many researchers and writers have started hypothesizing about the dangers of sharing DNA data and genetic privacy issues in general. While there is a potential for this data to be abused, most authors overestimate the risks to scare their readers and captivate their audience. Many of them want you to believe that a simple saliva sample could ruin your life. In fact, it can be quite the contrary, and what you learn from your test results can easily outweigh any risk you assume.

Here are the top 3 commonly stated DNA privacy concerns, and the truth about how scary they really are:

Law Enforcement is Coming For You!

One privacy concern that has made national headlines multiple times is the fact that law enforcement officers regularly use DNA databases to find criminals in cold cases. For example, the Golden State Killer was apprehended based on DNA evidence. Law enforcement officers used DNA from a crime scene to match to a DNA database, where they found family members of the killer. Using this, they tracked down the actual killer, Joseph James DeAngelo.

This “privacy concern” is really only a concern if you have committed an illegal crime. Some people try to sell the scary idea that law enforcement will eventually use DNA databases to catch protestors, speeders, and people who litter without a court order. While this sounds like a scene right out of the dystopian thriller 1984, the reality is that the government has other ways of regulating less heinous acts, and probably has larger issues to focus on.

I Won’t Be Able To Get Insurance!

A more serious privacy concern with DNA is that health insurance companies will be able to deny you coverage based on your DNA results. For example, 23andMe gives you the option to not learn about genes related to breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease for customers concerned about losing coverage. However, 23andMe also has a great article on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which clearly states that insurance providers and employers cannot take action based on genetic testing information.

Prior to this law, this privacy concern about genetic data may have been legitimate. But, Congress took quick and effective action to prevent anyone from exploiting you based on your genome. So, there is no current privacy reason you should not opt-in to these disease report, unless you simply don’t want to know your risk.

Someone Will Steal My Identity!

The last concern commonly described by writers is that someone will somehow hack a DNA database and steal your identity. This theory takes on several different forms: 

Someone will steal my DNA and leave it at a crime scene!

A criminal will steal my identity from the DNA database and ruin my credit!

A grifter will get ahold of my DNA data and use it in a nefarious scheme!

But, don’t write off DNA testing companies just because of these nonsensical theories. There are two reasons that genetic data sites are just as safe as using your credit card on websites like Amazon or eBay.

First, DNA databases are typically anonymized and aggregated for research purposes. This means that your DNA data is separated from your name and payment information, then compiled into one large file that contains millions of DNA samples. So, if you are comfortable with the risks of using the internet, DNA testing doesn’t have any greater risk. 

Second, it is impossible to replicate someone’s DNA from a DNA data file. Genetic testing kits solely measure single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These are tiny changes within very specific portions of your DNA, which can be correlated to certain conditions. In order to replicate your entire genome (to place at a crime scene, for instance), a criminal would need your entire genome with the large, non-coding areas that law enforcement officers use to identify suspects. This concern is more of a sci-fi conspiracy than an actual privacy concern.

Don’t worry with Genomelink.

Here at Genomelink, we take DNA privacy very seriously. Our databases are anonymized and aggregated, ensuring that no one will ever be able to recognize your specific sample with your identity. Further, we protect all personal information including your name, credit card number, and identifying information with the same encryption and standard security protocols used by major credit card processing companies. 

Further, Genomelink lets you delete your data at any time! If for any reason in the future you feel like your data is unsafe, simply follow the procedures outlined in the Genomelink FAQ to erase your data forever. This will permanently remove your sample from the Genomelink database, no questions asked. You can also read the entire Genomelink Privacy Statement if you want to learn more about what Genomelink does with your genetic data.

So, before you worry too much about DNA privacy concerns with at home DNA testing, know that we’ve got your back!

To find out more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites"

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO