Be Cautious of Your Personal DNA Report

Hot topic on the news wire lately is the over-the-counter availability of “Your Personal DNA Report” from Pathway Genomics. This service involves sending in a saliva sample to a “Certified Lab” where comprehensive genotype testing will be performed regardless of your decision to order a report at additional cost. The first concern here is that the comprehensive genotyping data will be stored by Pathway Genomics. The second concern is that you believe that storage record is anonymous.

So why am I talking about this. Only because these things dredge up all the predictions and fears that I had in writing my 2003 thesis, “Security of Your Personal Genome” for my MS in Bioinformatics. I do think it is dangerous for us to venture down this path. I’m not sure we should tread so close to God like knowledge. But my real fear is that if a record of your genome exists, the risk of it getting into the wrong hands is not worth the knowledge it may bring you. As for anonymous, wrong, if your genomic information is compromised or is shared, and it could be under this “anonymous” label. It is not difficult for today’s search algorithms to match characteristics from the genome with say protein results from a past blood test or maybe your family tree had a certain trend toward a disease. One little link of information is enough to complete a match to you. So with the direction health care is going I would not want an insurer or an employer to be able to make a calculated estimate about my health future. Of course I might be OK since my grandfather lived to be 102 and my dad who is 95 expects to beat that mark. Just be careful and really think about how you control or protect your personal genome, it is your ultimate ID.

May 18, 2010 – Unbelievable – UC Berkeley having incoming freshman submit to a DNA analysis to stimulate discussion about nutrition.

May 28th – Unwinding Berkeley’s DNA Test, InSide HigherED article.

August 13 – The California Department of Public Health demands that Berkeley change its freshman DNA experiment. Double Helix Trouble, InSide HigherED article.

About ghsmith76

Greg Smith is currently the Interim CIO at Western Washington University. Prior to WWU Greg was the CIO at Missouri S&T, and before that the CIO for George Fox University in Newberg, OR. Greg went to the Northwest from the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology in Indianapolis, IN. where he served as the Director of IT for 8 years. Prior to the IT career in Academia, Greg was a Systems Consultant with Hewlett-Packard primarily with the Analytical Group working out of San Francisco,Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Greg's passion as a CIO in Higher Education comes from his belief that Technology can benefit Teaching & Learning.

Posted on May 13, 2010, in Bioinformatics, genome, security. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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