People Share Genetic Information on Facebook, but Should They?

online_privacy_redbutton1With the rise of genealogy-tracking websites, it’s only natural that some people are sharing in-depth information about their family history and genetic code on Facebook. However, there may be unforeseen risks to this practice, as laid out in a recent blog post at VentureBeat. Some of these services, like 23andMe, give users the option to share their genetic information online and possibly connect to distant relatives. As the blog points out, this sharing of genetic data could be construed as an invasion of privacy, and could even be used by insurance companies to deny applicants health insurance.

“There are always risks, but people have to make their own decisions,” 23andMe spokesperson Catherine Afarian told VentureBeat. “People post all sorts of things without regard to consequences — it’s not an issue specific to genetics… It’s not entirely risk-free [to share test results on Facebook], but again, our mission is to give individuals choice over how their information is shared.”

Because the power of genetic information is still largely unknown, the true impact of entrusting a private corporation with the nitty-gritty details of DNA is unknown, too. However, your genetic information is permanent, and simply throwing it out on your Facebook profile for all to see could prove to be a short-sighted and potentially harmful decision.