Following the launch of my novel Don’t Ask last week I appeared on a number of BBC Radio stations discussing the dangers and downsides of over-the-counter DNA genealogy testing kits. These kits have many appeals, but the user is well advised to check out what they’re letting themselves in for before they spit into that test tube.
During the course of researching Don’t Ask, where a DNA test sets in motion a ripple effect engulfing two families across three generations, I discovered that the potential revelation of unwelcome family secrets was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to handing over your DNA to private companies who are not governed by the same rules and regulations as healthcare professionals.
Triggering unnecessary alarms over ‘medical predispositions’, the re-sale of your data to companies with designs on you, concerns over privacy, consent and data security, as well as possible discrimination along racial grounds represent massive red-flags over the sale of these kits. An urgent revision of national and international laws governing the use of direct-to-consumer DNA genealogy kits is long overdue.
Such kits have been banned in France and Germany for years, and I can well see why. It’s not that DNA science is a bad thing – far from it – but it’s not a toy, and it shouldn’t be a free for all for private companies to make money off the back of it. Legislation often lags years behind technology. Let’s shut the stable door before the horse has bolted.