At first glance, genealogical DNA testing seems so simple: you collect a sample, mail it off, then eagerly wait a couple months for the results. Once you receive the results you can then begin to build a family tree or assess potential health risks. In recent years, there has been a massive increase in commercial genetic testing. Companies such as AncestryDNA and 23andMe have formed lucrative enterprises around this idea. With the help of these tests, families have been reunited and health risks have been detected early enough to begin preventative care. And in April of this year, law enforcement officials used the website GEDmatch to identify an individual believed to be the elusive Golden State Killer.
The thought that this process raises security concerns probably never even crossed your mind. However, the startling truth is that DNA profiles are sensitive information and there are only limited regulations regarding what companies can do with your data. Imagine if you found out you had a degenerative condition, and this information was sold to a life insurance company. Your rates would skyrocket as a result.
In October 2017, hackers infiltrated the database of genetic testing company MyHeritage, compromising the data of 92 million users. This has led to a discussion of privacy policies surrounding DNA testing. Most companies have strict anonymization policies: the DNA samples are encrypted using barcodes and stored separately from consumers’ personal details and information. But anonymous DNA is still considered sensitive data.
When you send a DNA sample to a testing company, you relinquish certain rights to the sample that the company needs to run tests. The contract you agree to before receiving your test kit may contain fine print with which you consent to the sharing of your information. Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA have partnerships with pharmaceutical companies which buy and use the data for research on various diseases, such as Parkinson’s. Even if you later go onto the site and request the company delete your DNA sample, only the physical sample is destroyed. The digitized copy of your genetic code will live on in computer databases.
Court orders may compel companies to share the DNA sample of a suspect to determine guilt or lack thereof. And, due to data entry errors, an individual may even be accused of a crime he or she did not commit.
At Extract, we excel in data security and we believe your privacy is paramount. We automate your workflows to eliminate manual data entry errors, keeping your data accurate, moving quickly, and going where it needs to be. Contact us today to learn more.
About the Author: Claire Means
Claire is a Database Development Specialist at Extract Systems. She started at the company as a document verifier, which gives her a unique understanding of the redaction software. Her attention to detail and high rate of accuracy prove her dedication to Extract’s success. Claire holds a certificate in Web Design from Madison College and her special interests include web analytics and search engine optimization.