DNA testing kits, like those being produced by companies such as 23&Me, are an ostensibly neat idea, right? We all want to know who we really are, and whether or not the things we’ve been told about our heritage are true.
But beyond this DNA tests can only provide us with incredible insight regarding our health and well-being, including clues as to what sort of illnesses we could be predisposed to.
And while this is a very forward-thinking aspect of the easy-to-obtain tests, there is another side to this coin, and not everyone who could have access to your personal and specific genetic data is going to use it for good.
Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), a U.S. Army veteran, used the Aspen Security Forum to warn Americans to be more judicious about sharing their DNA with private companies due to the coming of new bioweapon types.
Crow was not playing around.
“You can actually take someone’s DNA, take, you know, their medical profile and you can target a biological weapon that will kill that person or take them off the battlefield or make them inoperable,” Crow, from Colorado, reportedly said.
The congressman said the development of sophisticated bioweapons is worrisome given the popularity of DNA testing services, where people willingly share their genetic mapping with businesses to gain insight on their genealogy and health, the Daily Mail reports.
The real issue is who owns that DNA data.
Crow, a former Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, continued: “People will very rapidly spit into a cup and send it to 23andMe and get really interesting data about their background.”
“And guess what? Their DNA is now owned by a private company. It can be sold off with very little intellectual property protection or privacy protection and we don’t have legal and regulatory regimes to deal with that.”
Beyond the fears that Crow has articulated here, there are also concerns that these corporations could sell your data to health insurance providers, who would then use it to increase your rates or decide outright not to cover you, due to your genetic predispositions for certain health issues.