March 06, 2020

Credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

More than thirty million people have used at-home DNA testing kits, sold by companies such as 23andMe, Ancestry and others, to flesh out their family tree or to help them discover long-lost relatives. However, mail-in genetic tests can sometimes bring unexpected and unsettling results that challenge long-held assumptions about who we think we are. 

In her book, “The Lost Family,” journalist Libby Copeland investigates the consequences of the commercialization of our genes and considers implications for privacy, health, relationships with family members, and even law enforcement.

Three Takeaways

  • Copeland says it is not unusual for those who use home DNA tests to be surprised by the results. Uncovering family secrets or complications, such as so-called “non-paternity events,” are not uncommon.
  • Many privacy experts have concerns about consumers’ personal DNA data and how it is protected (or not) with commercial genetic testing. There are also questions about how secure our genetic data will be in the future.
  • Even if you have never used a DNA testing kit yourself, a relative of yours may have, and that has implications for you too, according to Copeland, especially as more and more people test. After all, she writes, “your genes are not yours alone.” 

More Reading

libby copeland, dna, personal information, ethnicity, heritage, ancestry, science and tech

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