Tonight I bit the bullet and bought a DNA test from 23andMe’s new Personal Genome Service. This wasn’t an easy thing to do. Quite frankly I fear what may be disclosed to me after spitting in that plastic cup and sending it off for analysis.
On the one hand, I can’t wait to find out interesting things about myself, like:
- Do your genes help you sprint faster?
- How well can you taste bitter foods?
- Do you share maternal ancestry with outlaw Jesse James?
- Are you more similar to Mayans or Basques?
But I’ll also get all kinds of information about genetic diseases I might be more or less likely to get over time. Do I really want to know?
The massive terms and conditions agreement didn’t help to calm me. The section called “Risks” mentioned a number of things that I hadn’t thought of – like the fact that my dad may not actually be my dad. And that the information I receive may alter my life and worldview.
But what really worries me is that last sentence above, about social, legal or economic implications of discovering this information. What if this information becomes public? What if I can’t get health care because of the results? Call me a luddite, but this is a whole new class of private information that previous generations didn’t have to deal with. Our laws are waaaaay behind the curve here when it comes to protecting us.
The kit comes soon. After I spit and send it back, the analysis starts and in 4-6 short weeks I’ll be able to, as New York Times writer Amy Harmon said, “Google my DNA.”
23andMe has strong security features in place to keep my information fairly secure. But there’s a big hole in the plan – what if I simply send in someone else’s spit? What if it’s someone I’m thinking about marrying? What if someone does that to me? There’s no way to stop people from spending $1,000 and getting a full genetic download of ME, in all my flawed glory.
Anyway, no time to worry about that now. The future is coming, and I want to know. I just hope that there isn’t something horrifically genetically wrong with me that sends me to a futuristic version of a leper colony should anyone find out. Look for updates here – if I go strangely quiet, you’ll know somethings up.
And if a stranger (or loved one) asks you to spit in a cup, you’ll know to be more than a little suspicious.
By the way, if you want a play-by-play of someone who’s going to blog about his experience with 23andMe, check out former TechCrunch Intern Andrew Meyer’s new blog post “Help Me Decode My Genome by Christmas.” He’s asking for donations to get to the $1,000, and he promises to track his experience on his blog. Help him out, or just lurk for free and find out if Andrew has good marriage material.