A little DNA goes a long way to revealing identity


Anonymity is not guaranteed as you might think. In databases where genetic information is stored anonymously, that anonymity does not necessarily stay that way, stirring up concern about privacy issues in the Internet age.

Need to know vs. privacy

It’s a tough call: the need to know about genetic relationships for medical or emotional reasons and the need to maintain privacy and anonymity by the donor. The rise in genetic sequencing makes it even more difficult to protect anonymity. Genetic sequencing reveals information about the donor and the donor’s family.

Anonymity is not protected

A team from Whitehead Institute identified 50 people who had donated genetic material by simply using the Internet and other publicly available resources. They demonstrated that under certain circumstances the names and identities of genomic research subjects can be found even when the information is stored in “de-identified form”.

Genomic sequencing and last names reveal everything

By acknowledging that Y chromosomes are passed from father to son as well as last name, a little detective work by genealogists and genetic genealogy companies has brought to life a database that holds Y chromosome data by last name. they also referred to obituaries, other genealogical websites and other public demographic websites. This database is available to the public.

Posting the data needs better security

The team revealed that the posting of genetic data from one individual can expose deep genealogical ties and end up revealing a distantly-related person who may not know the original person who released the data. “We show that if, for example, your Uncle Dave submitted his DNA to a genetic genealogy database, you could be identified. In fact, even your fourth cousin Patrick, whom you’ve never met, could identify you if his DNA is in the database, as long as he is paternally related to you,” explained Melissa Gymrek, a member of the Erlich lab and first author.

Informed decisions necessary

“Our aim is to better illuminate the current status of identifiability of genetic data. More knowledge empowers participants to weigh the risks and benefits and make more informed decisions when considering whether to share their own data,” Gymrek concluded.

Source: Science, MedicalNewsToday


The information provided on ConceivingConcepts.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of ConceivingConcepts.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. See our Legal Statement for more details.

Fertility Clinics Directory

Find a Fertility Clinic

If you or a loved one is suffering from infertility and needs help conceiving then we are here to offer help in any way we can. We have over 450 Fertility Clinics listed on our Directory. Click here to search for a Fertility Clinic that is right for you.