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the world keeps turning

I’m always baffled, to this day (and possibly always will be) by the cruelty human beings show to one another. Wars, poverty, petty political arguments, you name it. It’s never worth it. At the end of the day, we all come into this world the same way (birth) and we are going to leave it in the exact same way as well (death).

We are human.

Which is where genealogy comes in. Hear me out.

About five years ago or so, National Geographic announced they were launching the Genographic Project in which they take the DNA of people from anywhere and everywhere and track down where they originated from. The goal is to “help answer fundamental questions about where humans originated and how we came to populate the Earth.” At the same time, the project funds the conservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures globally.

To me this is fascinating. It goes to show that we all originated from one place or continent – Africa – but spread out over hundreds of thousands of years. The human race migrated in various directions, evolving in slightly different ways.

It just goes to show, we are all human, made up of the same biological fabric no matter how different we may look on the outside.

The project is ongoing and any individual can still get their DNA tested to see where their own ancestors migrated from. I, myself, would love to know what’s mixed in my DNA. To peak a little into the far off past using science is all sorts of amazing.

The cost is a little hefty and would set a person back about $200. There are a few other companies, however, that are offering genetic testing, but for less, such as 23andMe. Sounds interesting right?

Well, there is a possible catch (because what doesn’t have a catch?).

In November 2013, Scientific American wrote an article about how companies like 23andMe could potentially use your information (i.e., DNA) to sell to other companies and use you for targeted advertisements. Essentially:

23andMe reserves the right to use your personal information—including your genome—to inform you about events and to try to sell you products and services. There is a much more lucrative market waiting in the wings, too. One could easily imagine how insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms might be interested in getting their hands on your genetic information, the better to sell you products (or deny them to you). According to 23andMe’s privacy policy, that wouldn’t be an acceptable use of the database. Although 23andMe admits that it will share aggregate information about users genomes to third parties, it adamantly insists that it will not sell your personal genetic information without your explicit consent. – November 2013, Scientific American

What’s more, even if you don’t take the genetic test, but someone directly related to you does, that information is then already in the database.

Pretty creepy isn’t it? Using your personal, unique, DNA to potentially market it to you. Now just imagine how insurance companies can use it against you.

Personally, I would love to take this genetic test, but more likely the one given by Nat Geo (you can read their privacy policy here). Will I do it any time soon? Probably not. I’m still paranoid anyone would potentially use my DNA for something else other than what I would like it to be used for.

But maybe one day. In the meantime, I don’t take for granted that we are all human beings, equal and very much the same in so many ways no matter where we are in the world, how much we have or don’t have, what we have faith in or don’t, and however we may look. That can never be ignored.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve used 23andme. I definitely worried about the risks of having my DNA out there, but I also feel like nothing is really private any more. With all of our health files/history being put online now, it doesn’t seem that much different to me than any other test that could be potentially breached. Plus, it was fascinating to get all my ancestral info, plus traits and health risks.

    March 18, 2015
    • Marie #

      Very, very true. Did you find out something you hadn’t known before about your ancestral info? I’m sooooooooooo curious about mine!

      March 18, 2015
  2. I agree that some of the acts occurring around the world are just so inhumane and how could we treat one another like that?

    About the genetic mapping, it’s not surprisingly that that data could be sold and possibly used against us. I mean, I’m already leery of using “the cloud” for photo and file storage. Heck, just last night I tried to use the IFTTT app to upload photos to Google drive whenever I had a new photo and the app asked me if it could access my drive files, like download, edit, and delete them. WT????

    March 18, 2015
    • Marie #

      They want to access everything! Very little is private anymore. It’s a little scary, little strange, and very interesting time in human history we are moving into.

      March 19, 2015
      • Yep! Off topic – I visited Chinatown Coffee over the weekend and got a great Intelligentsia latte!

        March 23, 2015
        • Marie #

          Nice!!! 🙂

          March 23, 2015
  3. It’s cool that they can do that but really creepy at the same time. I’m also slightly afraid of what I’d learn about my heritage. Oy.

    March 20, 2015
    • Marie #

      I’m sooooooo curious about my heritage. I’d love to know what I’m a mix of (if anything!).

      March 23, 2015
  4. Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast that was discussing privacy and how a very small percentage of people have taken any action to protect their own privacy. The person being interviewed was suggesting a number of reasons why this number was so small – people don’t care; people don’t understand the consequences; people don’t know there are consequences; people don’t have access to take action; etc. Anyway, it got me thinking about privacy in general. And wondering why people want to remain as private as possible. Sometimes, there’s direct benefits to ourselves and net benefits to our communities when we share things. And sometimes it just doesn’t freaking matter if something personal is revealed. And yet, people get so amped up over privacy. I dunno. I guess I’m just one of those open-book people. If you want to know, ask. =)

    March 25, 2015
    • Marie #

      I think that people should be able to share their information (if they want), but also have the protection of, for example, their identity or medical information not being stolen. That kind of information should be kept safe and it’s up to those who gather it to keep it safe. But as we are seeing, this is not the case (e.g., Anthem). There’s a balance that’s not being respected because, well, there are people and companies in this world who like to take advantage, unfortunately. Kind of frustrating sometimes because by sharing information, we can learn so much!

      March 31, 2015

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