23andMe launches DNA-screening test with online results, privacy issue emerges

Picture courtesy of pixabay.com

Marina Skalic (News Correspondent), Young London News

Genetic testing company 23andMe yesterday launched its personal genome service in the UK.

Customers on their website can order £125 saliva testing kit which screens their genes and informs about hereditary conditions.

Once the customer gets the results, he has to sign in to see results regarding his health and ancestry reports displayed on personal homepage, which is made by company.

Ross Anderson, a security expert at Cambridge University in Guardian, warned that genomic information is sensitive. “Anybody who says they can protect the privacy of your genomic data by anonymising it is mistaken”, he claims.

“Genetic data becomes more valuable and we don’t really know yet what parts of it are sensitive, though we learn more over time” Anderson predicts.

Helen Wallace, of GeneWatch,in Financial Times also raised her concerns about sharing genetic information on Internet.

“Genes are poor predictors of most diseases in most people but companies from Google to the private healthcare industry want to data-mine this information for personalized marketing, massively expanding the market for drugs sold to healthy people.”

“DNA contains a unique genetic code and stored online it will be accessible to police, security and border agencies based in any country”, she said.

23andMe, strongly backed up by Google, emphasized that it does not share the genetic data with insurance companies or any other interested party without a person’s explicit consent.

The goal is to keep people engaged with their own genome, so that they know what it means for them, said 23andMe chief executive Anne Wojcicki.

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