If you're an American of European descent, your stupid cousins have probably put you in vast commercial genomic databases

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/15/thanks-cuz.html


Crap! I thought GATTACA wasn’t going to happen until we had daily rocket service to Mars.


I’m likely in the database thanks to my parents. :unamused:


I’m less worried about the fact that the database exists (information tends to accumulate, not dissipate) and more worried about what is legal use of that data.


Being descended from a long line of Hill Williams, I’m confident that my cousins haven’t put anyone in a genomic database. Heck, most of them can’t spell DNA.


Remember, there’s an entire sub-group of people in the U.S. (not other countries, but that’s a story for another time) who are legally not allowed to have access to their own vital records.

These genetic testing sites are dominated – well out of proportion to their percentage of the general population – by people testing because they or one of their parents/grandparents were adopted or a sperm donor baby.

I’ve helped many families who fall into this category (it affects all the descendants as well, so it’s often the children or grandchildren I’m working with), including several where I was able to solve the mystery even though it was over 100 years old.

If you deny people their rights, they’ll find a way around it when the opportunity presents itself.

As @jhutch2000 says, the information isn’t the problem, it’s the non-regulated 3rd party usage.


Which they sell to researchers. That’s exactly right.


Feel free to slander my cousins. No need for any evidence or anything.


A few paragraphs in there’s this:

If you’re an American of US descent

Uhhh… am i interpreting that wrong or is that a mistake? Pretty sure its a mistake.


Perhaps recent immigrants are less stupid? No wonder Fox News fears them so!

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Oh, no, I made it easier for the police to catch my cousin the serial rapist. How will I sleep at night?

Though if it is junk science, how will they be able to make it work? I guess I can rest easy, knowing that the hysterical luddites are right. I was a fool to trust science.


I feel ya’. My mom is really into her 23andme results; I think she checks her account every day to check if new chromosome data has been added to feed her rather severe health paranoia/obsession that also includes stuff like homeopathy and “gluten intolerance”. She gave both me and my son kits for christmas two years ago and is still miffed that I wouldn’t send them in.

I’m somewhat “safe” from my dad’s side though, since he died nearly 30 years ago, and was an only child of an only child. So there’s that :unamused:


I think the concern is that this information will almost inevitably be used for less noble purposes (see GATTACA, above).


One of my coworkers recently fell into this stuff after learning that he has a brother than his mom never bothered to tell him about. Coworker and his siblings were sent to live the summer with an aunt while the lil guy gestated. Turns out that the divorce lawyer figures into the sperm equation, too.

As long as such juicy soap operas can be revealed by this service, our DNA isn’t safe.


To get more grounded if insurance companies have access to this information they could use it cross-referenced with family medical records. Relatives you have no idea about, without consent, could be a smokescreen for raising your premiums.

Less cynically, it could be used to help tailor medical treatments and inform you of possible health risks…

Or does HIPAA actually stop this?


Exactly (and again, basically the premise of GATTACA).


Interestingly, I called up a company offering “full sequences” (which I later found out are not actually full sequences) and found out that they would not just send me the raw data and delete their copy, unless I had a human subjects certification from an institutional IRB. So thee’s definitely an opening in the market for a sequencing company thats not just a scam trying to harvest your data, since as of a year ago, such a thing didn’t exist.


The thing to consider is that men could abandon their children without legal consequence well into the 1970’s.

My uncle (who is of course a Conservative Catholic) impregnated a mistress and simply denied paternity. He paid nothing, back then the mother and child had no recourse. That is shocking to many younger people today, there was no government mandated child support and DNA testing only really started in the mid 1980’s.

As much as the legal ramifications are troubling, and need regulation, there are thousands and thousands of people who would love to know their origin. I am delighted at the thought of all of these deadbeat dads getting sued for lack of support.


You should strongly consider looking deeper into this issue.


A better question may be, “what is the illegal use of that data?”
Because that list is probably much, much shorter. And clearly defined.

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