Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ancestry website is accused of selling users' DNA data

Genealogy website is accused of selling users' DNA data to pharmaceutical companies after signing a $300million deal with giant GSK

  • 23andme clients send in saliva samples for genetic testing by scientists
  • The company has allegedly sold clients' data after to 'big pharma' firm GSK
  • Expert has 'concern' for what companies would do with personal information

For many it is simply a novel way to find out more about the ancestors.

But a neuroscientist has raised concerns over popular DNA-testing sites, warning firms are selling off customers' personal data to third parties.

Dr Hannah Critchlow said data gathered by companies charging up to £149 for ancestry tests could potentially be 'manipulated' before being sold on.

And she flagged up one firm in particular, 23andme, which last year sold on clients' DNA data to a large pharmaceutical company.

Addressing an audience at the Hay Festival, Dr Critchlow, from the University of Cambridge, said: 'Really worryingly, you might have heard of a company called 23andme where people pay to give their DNA away to a company and it will sequence that DNA.

'Then it might make some very vague biological predictions. What this company has done very recently is it has gone on and sold all your DNA data to a pharmaceutical company.'

She said the pharmaceutical firm had 'obviously paid quite a lot of money for this', adding that many 'positive things' could spring from data being sold on.

'You can get more personalised medicine from it. Hopefully you'll be able to find new treatments for people that might have been suffering otherwise because there was no tailored treatment available to them,' she said.

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