If you haven’t watched Gattaga, this might be a good time for doing it.
23andme is a society funded with 10.000.000 dollars by Google. 23andme was co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, which is the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
23andme sells the following service: for 1000 dollars, you send us your saliva and we send you a complete analysis of your DNA.
This is already enough scary, as sonnoprofondo points out:
“What could be the reaction of someone just learning she inherited a risk for a certain heart disease from her mother? How would you feel if your DNA tells that your father has typically german genes and blue eyes, while you have always thought the opposite? Would you accept easily the idea your 2 years-old son inherited from your the risk for a certain disease?”
But what is more scary is that 23andme will upload your genetic information to a secure database. Then with your own private login, you can then use our web-based interactive tools to 23andme will upload your genetic information to a secure database. Then with your own private login, you can then use our web-based interactive tools to explore your genome. You can discover your origins, learn what the latest genetic findings may mean for you, and connect genetically with friends, family, and others across the globe explore your genome. This is directly from their website.
So this is astonishing, and this is what they are up to (and remember they are funded by google which already knows almost everything about you).
Moreover it is not too hard to guess the password of someone and enter in her account. This is true at least until 23andme does not put in place authentication based on your physical characteristics (“Just spit on your Webcamera and we will know you are you …”) … Uhm, maybe after Gattaga you might consider watching Matrix again.
So, is this a promising market? That is, how many persons will be willing to pay $1000 for getting their DNA? I have no idea about this sector, but my fear is that there will be many. And once 23andme becomes the leading provider in this sector and considering the network effect (“invite your friend to connect genetically to you, by sending her/him this discounted coupon option for DNA analysis”), 23andme will be in a key position for our very very society.
Consequences? Difficult to imagine for me, as I’m not very imaginative. But let me try.
This long Wired article starts with: And what are physicians, most likely untrained in and unprepared for genomic medicine, to do when a patient comes in wielding a printout that indicates a particular variation of a particular gene? This new age of genomics comes with great opportunity â€” but also great quandaries.
Maybe someone misinterpreting her genome and committing suicide?
Maybe will it happen that someone (with a good genome she would like to show off) starts posting his genome on her blog/page? (Genome Widget anyone?) Will a potential employer first search the Web (GenomeSphere?) in order to find the potential employee’s genome and decide to hire her or not based on this? If the fraction of people who voluntarily post their genome becomes large enough, not posting your genome might be seen as suspect (“has this potential employee/date/friend something to hide?”).
As much as you can trust 23andme to have figure out Web security right, is a computer glitch unwantedly exposing some information totally impossible? What if the government asks for this data?
I don’t know. Is the fact I’m so scared just a symptom of me being too old for these new times? I can already hear people saying “this is only information, more information is always good, then you can make more informed decisions”. Uhm, I don’t know. Are you scared as well, my old friend?
And if you are wondering why the company is named 23andme … how many pairs of chromosomes do you think you have in your DNA? Yes, 23.