DNA Tests Can Improve Health—and Ruin Privacy

Testing labs can sell genomes to Big Pharma
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2009 6:22 PM CST
Genetic testing is becoming more common. Will it be possible to ensure DNA privacy?   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – Genetic testing is quickly becoming cheaper and widely available, prompting questions of whether the privacy of this most personal data can be ensured, writes Peter Dizikes for Salon. Companies such as 23andMe and Navigenics can study your genes for $399 or so to determine if you're at risk for a host of diseases. But with little regulation in place, those who submit their DNA for tests may also be releasing it to the public—including potential employers and insurers.

"The promise of these tests includes drugs that may someday be tailored to treat your illnesses," writes Dizikes. "The peril is that your personal data could circulate more widely than you expect. ... DNA testing currently involves a lightly regulated tangle of private and nonprofit researchers. Once you take a DNA test, it ceases to be your property. Your genetic data could circulate among insurers and employers, or even data brokers and pharmaceutical companies hoping to profit from it."