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Would you send some company your DNA?

I know quite a few people who have happily sent the most personal information they have, their DNA, to some company in return for a report telling them their ancestry by percentages. My feeling about this has been, go to town, have fun with it, but don’t expect me to do the same. Same deal with those step-counting devices which send data back to the company. No way would I ever do that. It never occurred to me though, that the report you get from the DNA company might not have some kind of scientific accuracy.

CBC’s Marketplace has looked into this. They sent the DNA of a pair of identical twins to 5 of these companies. Since identical twins have nearly identical DNA (the article says 99.6% the same raw data, statistically identical), it’s reasonable to expect that each sister would have the same DNA profile results – but that isn’t what they received. Check out the article about this on the CBC website.

Are the results for one of the twins or both of them correct, or both of them way off base? Who knows. Is one company more accurate than the others? Who knows? It may be that the companies are doing their best to provide accurate results and they may offer reasons for the discrepancies. That hardly matters, though if you can’t trust the results, does it? The CBC says there is no government or professional oversight to this industry. The CBC’s little experiment suggests to me that these DNA profiles provide some entertainment value, but best not get too hung up on them.

I think it’s best just not to give them your data. I’m no privacy freak. I don’t live off the grid. I use a cell phone. I have a Facebook account. I use the internet. I use a debit card and occasionally a credit card. I even have a grocery store points card. I draw the line at the step counters. Not happening. Sending anyone my DNA? No way.

1 Comment so far

  1. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    Once you have a smartphone and a facebook account you also have roughly zero privacy. If someone had an urge they could pinpoint your current location, learn the route you take when you walk your dogs, what you eat, and where you live. It was google or facebook (I forget which) that boldly stated that they could with 80% accuracy predict the name of a person you would meet in the next 30 days. They know your circle of contacts and everything that there is to know about them. They also know the circle of contacts of each of your contacts. If for example 2 or 3 of your contacts happen to have person X as one of their contacts it is highly likely that you will encounter that person as well pretty soon. Your photo has been spread across the internet and if someone had the urge they could use your pic in a facial recognition program. That thumbprint you use to start up your cell phone is on file somewhere.

    And you are being watched. My favorite example of this comes from back when someone killed some folks at the Boston Marathon a few years ago with explosives filling a pressure cooker and carried in a backpack. Turns out that there was a couple who were planning a camping hiking trip. Hubby thought he needed a new backpack so from work he ordered one online. The same day his wife was at work and decided that she could get better texture from her couscous if only she had a pressure cooker so she ordered one online. After work they both went home and when they got home they found the cops waiting for them and demanding to know why they had ordered a pressure cooker and a backpack. I was sort of stunned that not only were sales of these items being tracked by police but they had the capability of tying the 2 separate purchases together pretty much in real time. I find that really scary.

    Giving someone your DNA seems stupid on a whole new level. I cant even comprehend why anyone would even want to do that. So you traced your family tree back as far as you could from family records. Your ancestry is Polish, Polish, Polish, Polish and more Polish and you have learned that your great grandfather was born in Pierogiville, Poland but you arent happy with that so you send off a DNA sample to see if you can learn more. Do you really want to know more? Really? Ok you do it and finally you get the results. Ooops. You are 50% Italian! What? How can that be? There is only one way. Mom, what have you done? No thanks, I dont really want my DNA traced. errr pass the spaghetti please.

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