Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Should you post your DNA to publicly accessible databases?

An article about how police in Wisconsin used publicly available DNA to find a killer spurred me to consider whether we have a duty to perform DNA testing on ourselves to provide police with data to track down killers and rapists in cold cases. Or does police use of our data without our permission invade our privacy?

My instincts in approaching questions like is are libertarian.

I’ve asked to be cremated. I’m thrifty, and it’s cheaper to cremate than to embalm and bury. But also, I abhor the thought of future archeologists digging up my casket, measuring my tooth-wear to determine my age or extracting my DNA to discover whether I’m related to Jack the Ripper or Madonna.

As much as I am a libertarian, I also believe we have a responsibility to help each other. That includes helping the police catch criminals. Might preserving a sample of my DNA for posterity help bring a second cousin thrice removed to justice?

Is it a civic responsibility to patriciate in DNA mania?

I have a dilemma. I’m willing to help the police solve crimes. I do not want corporations to have access to my genetic markers. The individuals who run corporations have shown little constraint in using personal data to enhance their profit.

Given access to my DNA, they would surely try to charge me more for health or life insurance if I am more prone to cancer than the average American. They’ll increase my long-term care premiums if I have an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s. And if the government prohibits them from using genetic markers to raise my costs, corporations will find a way to deny me coverage if I’m going to cost them more.

Am I willing to put up with that? Hell no! The libertarian wins over the socially conscious citizen.

Perhaps I could compromise and provide the world my DNA after I die. Then corporations can’t use my genes against me.

Oh, but they could use my DNA against my children, couldn’t they!

I don’t see a simple solution. Do you?

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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. False Bottom, the sixth novel in the series—this one set in the Boston area—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at

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