Viewpoint: Why turning down 23andMe’s genetic testing was right for separated immigrant families

| | June 27, 2018
Image credit: John Moore/Getty Images
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

23andMe offered to genetically test undocumented migrants. Fortunately, some smart people said “no, thanks.”

RAICES Texas, one of the biggest nonprofit organizations that has been raising money and providing legal support to these refugee and immigrant families [separated at the border in recent enforcement actions], decided Monday [June 25] to turn 23andMe and MyHeritage away, according to KQED.

There’s no question that Spier, 23andMe, and MyHeritage had good intentions (though they surely also saw the chance at the public relations move of a lifetime). But, as publications like The Verge and USA Today noted, the project came with far more probably-unintended dangers. Because it means compiling a genetic database of asylum seekers and other immigrants who were separated from their families upon entering the U.S. and are desperate to find their families again.

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Collecting this genetic information would give these companies — and the government, if the records were subpoenaed — the ability to trace these families for purposes far beyond reuniting parents with children. It would create a store of private information about migrants that could be devastating if leaked or sold.

While many surely thought genetic tests would be an elegant solution to a particularly upsetting problem, this is a rare case in which people have thought through the bioethical implications of their plans before moving ahead with them and making everything worse.

Read full, original post: By Turning Down 23andMe, Immigration Activists Are Actually Being Responsible About Genetic Privacy

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