The skyrocketing popularity of home DNA test kits has come with concerns of personal information safety. Containing everything from potential health problems to hereditary history, the information found in our genes may be even more sensitive than our social security numbers. Here are some things to consider before getting your DNA tested.
Trusting that companies handle your DNA responsibly does not come without risk. When you decide to do a home DNA test, it is important to research the company that you choose. Gene2Know is an example of a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) -compliant company, meaning they protect your genetic information like any other medical record. They also take additional measures to ensure your genetic information is not stored along with your banking information to further protect anonymity.
While some companies are very transparent with their genetic testing policies, there are others that come with a lot of fine print. For example, Ancestry, another DNA testing company, has been reported to sell analysis of customer DNA to third party companies.
While it doesn’t happen often, the DNA that you send in could potentially send someone to jail. Recently, the infamous “Golden State Killer” was discovered after police obtained DNA information from Ancestry. Another investigation led police to obtain evidence from a 1996 rape and murder case in Idaho. DNA information identified the suspect’s relative, and police arrived on his doorstep for questioning.
Though they had a warrant and the information was obtained legally, it is still a good thing to keep in mind that your DNA could have a much further reach than you expected. Double check that the company you choose protects your data and has policies to ensure that it cannot be freely accessed.
GINA Doesn’t Discriminate
If the thought of sharing your genetic information still doesn’t sit right with you, rest assured that there are legal measures put into place to protect your rights. “The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that protects individuals from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment”. This means that no matter what your home DNA test results turn up, they won’t hurt your chances of getting health insurance or a job.
Define Your Limits
Another important factor to consider with your home DNA test is how much you’re comfortable with in terms of information sharing. For example, the DNA test company 23andMe partners with many academic institutions and drug companies to work with their DNA samples.
Though they claim the samples have been “de-identified”, meaning they don’t know that the DNA they are testing came from you, it is still important to question if you are comfortable with your genetic information being used in this manner.
Gene2Know takes the extra step to ensure your privacy by requiring your explicit consent to use your DNA test for any other purpose. To further secure the data, Gene2Know assigns each customer a barcode. This barcode is the only link between you and your genetic data.
Small Risk, Big Reward
Ultimately, the risks of at-home DNA tests are rare and non-threatening. Though consequences are few and far between, it is important to thoroughly research the company that you choose. Knowing where you send your genetic information will bring peace of mind and safeguard any information that is uncovered.