of At-home DNA Tests
DNA tests are trendy these days. From a small sample of your saliva, companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can tell you your genetic make-up and where you came from. And who doesn't want to know that for anywhere from $90 to $160?
People are always curious about themselves and about others, but only a few of us realize that those cool and seemingly harmless genetic tests can hide some questionable business practices and serious privacy violations.
The results of those DNA findings tend to emphasize the importance of genetics versus the culture's influence, which can only highlight our society's already rampant racial tensions over our identity and potential.
Most consumers don't think or look deeper into those issues when purchasing the service. Sharing your genetic information can be just as dangerous as giving away your name and address without understanding where they might be used.
Recent information about Family Tree DNA, one of the largest such companies, giving access to their database to law enforcement came as a warning that we really don't know how our information is used once we volunteer it. While tracking criminals and matching their DNA to solve crimes is plausible, how about people who are at risk of being watched and not always correctly suspected of wrong doing? They too will be DNA checked without even knowing it.
Another issue is insurance, where racial profiling still exists to some extent. They could have access to genetic information and adjust rates based on just that, despite constitutional limitations that don't apply to all areas of insurance.
Health issues and conditions can be discovered and highlighted by such DNA tests, but the accuracy and understanding of such factors and genetic mutations is not like you would get at the doctor's office. DNA testing companies don't have the needed level of expertise and education to indicate illnesses to people and so can easily cause some undue panic. Sadly, with FDA' looming approval of such tests, your test results might be easily accessible for health insurance companies and play against your interests, let alone the anxiety you would get prior to confirming cancer diagnosis with your doctor.
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act has been serving to prohibit discrimination based on your genetic results, but there is nothing that can prevent life insurance companies from discriminating against you if they can access information that you are likely to get cancer.
There already are known cases when, based on accidentally leaked genetic information from the doctor's office, insurance premiums increased for the patents, all in the U.S.
Before new laws are established, at-home DNA testers should be very careful about where on the internet their private information can be accessed and by whom.
While our desire to discover who we are and where did we come from is nothing new, today we have this technology at our fingertips that is easy and accessible to all. This creates eugenics movement and gives voice to some people with radical views. 1924 is when the Immigration Act was passed, showing our obsession with genetic lineages of our people. Unfortunately the trend is only increasing.
If we immerse in our DNA research too deep, we might lose track of what's really important – personal identity that stems from our upbringing, culture, and experiences rather than plain genetic origin. 12 million people have had their DNA tested as of 2017, so the movement is definitely here.
We heard recent stories and revelations about Elizabeth Warren's Native American descent and Demi Lovato's African American genes, but that is an ill-placed focus about something that does not mean anything for us and does not determine who we are as people. It can cause undue racial profiling though.
Some DNA testers get their family history completely destroyed when they find out that their ancestors came from Spain and not from Germany as family stories had them placed. This shows that we should not take the results as some missing link. It's merely a fact that did not affect our personality, which was formed while growing up and creating our own story.
We are not saying that at-home DNA tests should be avoided, but they definitely need to be approached with some caution. Privacy security is still at its developing stages and philosophical aspects of those findings need to be kept in mind.
Just like Pandora's Box, your personal DNA might be best kept closed until you fully understand what you are really getting into.