DNA tests: Reveal the past, but at what cost?

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INDIANAPOLIS — “I think it’s interesting to see where we come from.”

Red hair, green eyes and a curiosity to know where it all began.

“My grandfather insisted we were of dutch origin. I found a letter that indicates we’re of German lineage. And then my original maiden last name says that I’m of Scottish lineage.”

So many questions and for Brooke Nigh, the answers seemed to lie in a small DNA kit she got for Christmas.

“You spit into this vial up into the line. You place it in a bag and seal it, and mail it off to a lab in Utah.”

“It would be exciting to see something that I had not considered pop up.”

But like so many, Nigh didn’t really know what she was getting in to.

Just weeks before Christmas, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer called on a federal investigation into DNA testing companies, saying these popular kits were putting consumer privacy at a great risk.

“The last gift any of us want to give away this holiday season is our most personal and sensitive information.”

Schumer called for fair privacy standards for all DNA kits fearing the companies doing these tests could sell your genetic data to anyone.

The Federal Trade Commission followed his call with a warning of their own saying, “…a major concern for consumers should be who else could have access to information about your heritage and your health…”

“The scary thing about this is you don`t know where the DNA is going.”

Which is why attorney Ryan Frasher was recruited to read the fine print of the terms of agreement for two of the biggest DNA testing companies: 23 and Me and Ancestry DNA.

Frasher said before you do any sort of testing there are three big questions you should ask.

First, how can my DNA be used.

“23 and Me seems to be more profit driven and they seem to have more connections with big pharma companies.”

Frasher found 23 and me has numerous partnerships with private companies like Pfizer – meaning your DNA could help the company turn a profit. But a company spokesman for 23 and me said, your DNA will never be shared with third parties, unless you give explicit consent.

The same goes for Ancestry DNA.

But Frasher warns, if you do say yes, the use of your DNA is seemingly limitless.

“At some point they`re going to package it up and sell it for billion if not trillions of dollars.”

The second question: who can access my DNA?

“This information can legally be subpoenaed by the government very easily.”

Your genetics can wind up in the hands of police.

23 and Me said it hasn’t given up any DNA to law enforcement yet, but Ancestry DNA has at least eight times in 2016.

And if you’re thinking about getting life insurance, think before you spit in that tube. While a federal law prevents your employer or health insurance company from using your DNA against you, the law doesn`t apply to life insurance, disability or even long-term care insurance.

“You’d have to turn over these tests that were run by these companies to this life insurance program.”

And the final question: can my DNA wind up in the wrong hands?

The simple answer is yes.

Although both companies said they have safeguards in place to prevent a hack, they can’t rule out the possibility that it could happen.

As for Nigh she eventually found out she’s from western Europe. For her, and many like her, the idea of knowing more about the past means more right now than what could happen in the future.

“I don’t have a lot of concerns because as long as they don`t have any kind of malicious intent with it I feel like that’s okay.”