Facebook Study Wants to Test User DNA

Privacy symbol with digital globe, 3d renderA medical research study called Genes for Good launched this week with the goal of analyzing the DNA of at least 20,000 people. How are they going to find such a large pool of volunteers? Facebook, of course.

The researchers want participants to send a sample of their spit to a lab at the University of Michigan, and then use a free Facebook app to send periodic health updates to the team of scientists. The researchers will then cross-check the genetic data with the information that users’ submit about their health, habits and mood in an attempt to establish a link between the two.

While this seems like a no-win situation for users who sign up, they will get the chance to compare their data with the entire pool of volunteers and learn about their genetic history. However, following the recommendation from an ethical review board, the researchers will not tell volunteers if they are at genetic risk for disease. However, the researchers say they eventually want to add a section to the app with more consent options that would allow users to find out this information.

The scientists believe they’ll attract volunteers based on curiosity and a willingness to contribute to the greater good, but some ethicists aren’t so convinced.

“Some people are going to freak out about this,” Michelle Meyer, a bioethics professor, told BuzzFeed News. “DNA and Facebook are two words that most people do not want to hear in the same sentence.”

Readers: would you provide your genetic information to these researchers?