No matter how romantic the idea of discovering you are 1/1024th native American – to hand over their DNA to the next tom, dick or dotcom wanting to tell you if you’re lactose intolerant or when you’ll get diabetes.
But, luckily for all of us skeptics, the clever people have a solution to our plebian ignorance.
As Bloomberg reports, a group of medical researchers have a counter-intuitive proposal for shielding people’s most intimate personal data from prying eyes.
Bloomberg’s Kristen Brown writes that in a new paper published in the journal Science on Thursday, researchers suggest that the best way to protect genetic information might be for all Americans to deposit their data in a universal, nationwide DNA database.
Concerns about who can gain access to genetic information gathered by consumer genetic-testing websites has been on the climb since April, when police made an arrest in a decades-old serial-murder case in California. To ensnare the alleged Golden State Killer, investigators trawled an open-source database popular with genealogy hobbyists to search for relatives of possible suspects. Police found matches, and then got their man.
The California case made clear that consumers have little control over where their genetic information — and by extension, that of their family members — can wind up, a potential privacy nightmare.
“Currently, law enforcement already has potential access to millions of people’s data,” said James Hazel, a researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and the lead author of the paper. “A universal system would be much easier to regulate.”
A recent study concluded that only 2 percent of the population needs to have done a DNA test for virtually everyone’s genetic makeup to be exposed.
“This is a very provocative proposal,” Hazel said, “But it all comes down to spurring a debate about the current system.”
If enhancing privacy by creating a giant database of people’s DNA sounds counterintuitive, the group’s point is that it’s already too late to prevent mass exposure.
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