Home DNA test kits are a fun way to find out about your heritage and where your ancestors may have lived. These kits allow you to easily swab your cheek and send the sample back to the company for evaluation. For around $50 dollars it can be “the gift for everyone you love”. How can this test be so cheap and tell me so much? Why wouldn’t you want to have your DNA tested and get a report on your ancestry?
Last year Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for more scrutiny into popular DNA testing kits, saying unknowing customers may be putting their genetic information at risk of being sold to third parties. Some fear that this is the case, even though DNA testing companies state in their privacy policies that consumers control how their data is used. In the future, what happens when these companies are sold or go out of business? Will your DNA data be sold to the highest bidder?
MyHeritage, a DNA testing company, leaked the data of over 92 million users last year that included email addresses and hashed passwords. Thankfully no DNA data was included in this breach. However, if companies don’t sell your DNA data, they might lose it to hackers in future breaches. Is it worth the risk? Some might say yes, but I would argue that it is not. Think about this: if your credit card is stolen what does your credit card company do for you? They disable the stolen card and send you a new card with a new number. If your DNA is stolen, what can a DNA testing company do for you? Your DNA can’t be replaced or changed and if it could, would you want it to? Your DNA is your make-up and should be considered Non-Public Personal Information (NPPI) and highly protected.
In the future our DNA may be worth a hefty price to hackers and identity thieves much like our other NPPI is today. We must proceed with caution when it comes to any unique, personal information about us including our DNA data. It is our responsibility to manage the security of our data and be informed about how companies use our data.