Online DNA testing has become a huge trend in recent years, and it has already taken many countries by storm. While receiving your results and comparing them to those of others can seem like a fun experience, it also comes with numerous strings attached that people often don’t think about. And this is a growing problem, because even when most of us do wake up about the situation, it will probably be too late. Companies have already managed to obtain lots of DNA samples, and there’s no coming back from that. The only thing we can change at this point is how much more we give them on top of that.
Not all companies are taking an aggressive approach to collect data from their users. There are also cases like Legacy Tree, which strive to do things more professionally, for example, by providing direct on-site testing by specialists instead of sending insecure home-based kits. You can find more information about their progress through the market in the review by top10.com, which goes into detail about how the company operates and what their current goals are. However, they are not the only one – the market isn’t exclusively taken over by companies trying to exploit their customers’ DNA… at least not yet.
The Potential Impact on Health Insurance and Healthcare in General
One of the specific areas of interest in this field are diseases based on a genetic predisposition. DNA tests can reveal a surprising lot about your body, in some cases bringing some uncomfortable truths to light. While it can be useful to know that you may be at a higher risk for a particular disease, this could also lead to unexpected problems. Health insurance providers in some countries are already doing everything they can to make things more expensive for people born with certain conditions. Handing them the tools to discriminate based on the mere possibility of developing a condition is going to push this into an even more uncomfortable zone, and it’s not a bright future to look towards.
Gene Patents Are on the Horizon
There’s also the question of ownership. So far, at least in the US, companies have been having trouble patenting human genes – but there’s no guarantee that this is going to be the case forever. Many companies have been fighting hard to change that situation, and the possible future implications are not yet clear. While obviously nobody is going to chase you down because you were born with patented genes, it could make things more difficult for companies that want to provide gene-based therapy for conditions that have been traditionally difficult to treat.
Do You Want Surprise Visits from Previously Unknown Relatives?
DNA testing services tend to make some bold claims about their attitude to privacy, but we’ve seen examples proving that their word should be taken with a grain of salt. There have already been reports of someone finding a long-lost family with the help of a DNA test. This might sound like a sweet story, but there are many possible cases that are very far from that. Some people want to stay away from their real families for a good reason and go through a lot of trouble for that, and in the current climate, they have to be increasingly more cautious about how they spread their DNA around. One doesn’t necessarily need to even take a personal DNA test to trigger potential consequences here – it’s possible that their data could find its way into the wrong database after a routine medical procedure. And that brings us to another important point.
Privacy Policies Can Change Over Time
One thing is certain – this trend is not going anywhere. The cat’s already out of the bag, and at this point, the best we can do is to ensure that we stay as informed as possible about how things work, and what the future might bring. Any changes on that front should be monitored closely, and not just by those with a vested interest in the field. Looking at the last decade and how fast we’ve progressed through it, the next few years should prove quite turbulent.
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