As technology has advanced, more data than ever has been generated through every click made on the internet and beyond. Every day we generate roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data… and I promise I didn’t make up the word “quintillion”. This data is constantly being generated, sold, analyzed and pumped into graphs and visuals in every technological field. A lot of this information has been helpful, but a lot of this is affecting us in ways that are moving too fast for us to grasp the consequences.
One of these ways is through genetic testing such as Invitae, GeneDX, and 23andMe. Admittedly, the thought of spitting on something and sending it off for scientists to confirm my Irish heritage has been intriguing. Though the little red freckles on my arms (and my father’s four large binders extensive ancestral research) has been enough to prove this to my satisfaction, the test analyzing the 23 pairs of chromosomes will also tell you your tendency toward certain diseases and possibly inherited health issues. This is where it starts to get complicated.
Luckily to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, in general, individuals may not be denied health insurance (or employment) based on their DNA. However this does not apply to life insurance.
While taking one of these tests has many benefits, such as knowing if you have the genes to develop breast cancer and being more aggressive in regular screenings, it is this same knowledge that gives these life insurance companies to deny coverage to applicants.
So if you do decide to spit into a tube and send it off in the post, keep in mind of the (possible) repercussions. On a more positive note, a lot of this data has been extremely beneficial to the medical field, and with the huge data sets we are making more discoveries to prevent and cure diseases than ever before. If you’re interested, Stanford Medical had an extremely extensive article from a few years back detailing individual cases of how data has been beneficial to the health field.