Security Check: Think Twice Before Submitting your Saliva to 23andMe

By Brooklynn Then , AGE 9

23andMe DNA test – Jan. 31, 2021- complete kit. It is a standard (i.e. “Ancestry + Traits “) international kit. Photo: Veverve. Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wanted to learn more about your genetic background? A private biotechnology company, 23andMe, has provided many people with insight into their genetic information. They do this by analyzing a saliva sample you send to them. 23andMe has claimed they are a trusted site. This seemed accurate until October 2023, when 23andMe’s data was hacked. The most impacted by this hack were predominantly Chinese and Jewish Ashkenazi individuals, but the data of approximately 6.9 million users, nearly half of 23andMe customers, was accessed. Not only did hackers gain access to their data, but what is even more severe is how much of this personal data was leaked and posted on the dark web.

 The dark web is the internet’s darker, deeper, more hidden parts, hence the name. It’s also a known home for these types of hackers. This leak of personal information not only puts those specific individuals in danger, but their family members, as well. Because 23andMe utilizes its database to share information about potential relatives and overall ancestral reports, more people’s private data, including name, birthdate, gender, and much more, is in danger of being exploited and sold on the dark web. 

“23andMe is in the business of collecting and analyzing the most sensitive and irreplaceable information about individuals, their genetic code,” states Connecticut Attorney General William Tong in an inquiry letter to the company. “This incident raises questions about the processes used by 23andMe to obtain consent from users, as well as the measures taken by 23andMe to protect the confidentiality of sensitive personal information.”

The 23andMe data breach exposes genetic information vulnerabilities, prompting broader concerns regarding security and ethics in genetic testing companies. A reevaluation of consent processes and data protection measures is essential in this fast advancing biotechnological environment. 

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