I am beyond frustrated with journalists. Specifically, I am frustrated with their coverage of different DNA companies that offer DNA testing services (23andMe, Ancestry, FTDNA, among others). As someone whose actually studied preventative medicine, biology, and has participated in numerous DNA projects, allow me to give some insight into this issue.
So many journalists write articles along the lines of “Guess what this DNA COMPANY is actually IN BED WITH BIG PHARMA! BE SCARED!” and honestly, it’s exhausting. So many of these articles mislead the unknowing reader into feeling terrified of these companies for no valid reason. These journalists clearly have not done their research and it causes them to write lies about these DNA companies. I am not asking these journalists for a full blown term paper worth’s of research on these companies and laws that pertain to medical and genetic privacy, I am just asking for the bare bones basics that an easy Google search could solve.
At the time of this article, for example, it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the USA based on your genetic information. In plain English this means that say a place of employment can’t not hire you based solely on your genetic information. It means that a landlord can’t deny you housing based solely on your genetic information.
The biggest scare tactic journalism articles use in regards to these DNA companies is “big Pharma”. Again, if you are aware of current laws, this is not scary, at all. Current laws pertaining to genetic and medical information currently state that (this is a simplified version) that unless you sign a contract that says otherwise, companies can only give information about your information as long as it pertains to medical advancement of science. Other reasons a company might give away your genetic and/or medical information: court order, aid in a missing persons’ case, aid in cases that deal with abuse, organ donation, essiential government functions, workers’ compensation, and serious threats to health or safety.
Take it from someone who got a master’s degree in public health (with a concentration in policy and management, which means I studied how health laws and bills function), got their undergraduate degree minor in biology and someone whose interested in DNA testing in general. Please stop spreading fear mongering articles by journalists who have clearly not done any research.