author photo
By Bruce Sussman
Tue | Dec 25, 2018 | 8:14 AM PST

The commercials make it look like a fantastic gift for someone you love and for yourself. But is getting your DNA tested safe? Are you giving up your privacy?

DNA testing can help you discover your family tree or reconnect with long-lost relatives. But is it worth the privacy risk?

After we published DNA Testing Privacy Risks: DNA Company Starts Working with Pharmaceutical Giant, we heard from people—dozens of them—about the topic:

Chris posted: "I can’t say I’m a big fan of people I don’t know making money off of my personal biological information, but... I have spent the last 6 months meeting my biological mother and 4 half siblings I never knew I had. All because I submitted a sample of my DNA to and so had my unknown relatives before me. My life has not so much changed in this experience, but it has certainly been enhanced. No regrets on my end!"

And Karen put it this way: "You have to weigh trying to keep things private versus something you may want to find out about your ancestors, particularly if a person has been adopted. Nothing is actually safe anymore unfortunately due to the internet."

And now there is something else to weigh about a home ancestry test where your information ends up in a database.

Researchers just published a new study in the journal Science after searching for people in a DNA database that contained 1.28 million records. 

NPR reports on what they found:

"It's kind of like each person in this database is a beacon that illuminates hundreds of distant relatives," Chief Science Officer Yaniv Erlich says. "So it's enough to have your third cousin or your second cousin once-removed in these databases to actually identify you."

And when the researchers combined their strategy with other information, such as a specific geographic area or the approximate age of a person, they could quickly reduce a list of possibilities to just a few people.

And that can be wonderful or scary, depending on how you look at it.

Tags: Big Data, Privacy,