Testing Your History
Finding out about your personal history can be a fun and interesting exercise. Your data can also be used by others for profit.
There's been a lot of interest in learning about personal family history in recent years. Like most everything else, researching the family tree has moved online as integrated databases make the process easier and faster than ever.
But family history is no longer just about discovering an ancestor was a convict or an aristocrat, it has now become about our very DNA makeup.
And why wouldn't we be interested to discover the exotic mix of racial profiles contributing to our own being?
Finding the truth about ourselves doesn't always work for the individual - although it may have broader benefits.
A DNA test exposed how US Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren lied about being a Native American - a claim she used to gain job concessions as a 'minority hire'.
Donald Trump labelled her 'Pocahantas' over her claims and shamed her into taking the test. It showed she may be 1/1024 Native American - less than most to the US population.
But dishonesty isn't the purpose of todays musings. It's about the DNA testing itself.
Recently, one of the biggest testing outfits, Ancestory.com was sold to a private equity firm for a little under $5 billion.
Private Equity players are among the smartest investors on the planet and the recent decline in Ancestory's earnings didn't put them off.
However, it is a little curious that they would invest so much money in a company which is basically a single use to potential consumers. Usually the big money is reserved for repeat purchase products.
That means they must see something more in Ancestory.com.
The 'more' is the data. The purchase includes the genetic composition and contact information of millions of people. If you have done a test with Ancestory.com they effectively own your DNA and can do whatever they want with it.
Imagine the value for a big healthcare or pharmaceutical company in licensing access to that database. They could use it for medical research as well as identifying likely beneficiaries of their products.
An insurance company could use the database to identify those with re-dispositions to certain illnesses that may ultimately influence their premiums and health coverage.
The possible ways to turn a profit on this treasure trove of personal information is virtually limitless.
Incredibly, this valuable data was surrendered voluntarily. Actually it is worse than that as customers actually paid for the privilege of giving up their DNA data.
That might not seem like a big deal to you and you could be right.
It could be that the smartest investors on the planet may have paid billions for a declining business because they just want to keep it running as normal.
I suspect there is more to it than that and the real value will be found in the mountain of DNA data. That could have some serious implications for those who provided it.