How consumer genetic testing is ending paternal secrecy—for better or worse

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Image: Luxonomist

When Nara Milanich wrote Paternity: The Elusive Quest for the Father—a history of the scientific, legal, and social conceptions of fatherhood in Western civilization—she wasn’t expecting that her publicity tour would be full of interviewers asking her whether she’s done 23andMe. And, truth be told, she’s not that into the question.

The sudden ability to positively identify a father for countless numbers of people whose fathers might have remained uncertain forever had significant repercussions. DNA testing promised a way to identify fathers and hold them accountable for supporting the children they could no longer dispute were theirs. 


The thing to remember about paternity testing, Milanich emphasized, is that it’s available to everyone, for uses both benign and less so.

Related article:  Why a proposed DNA data protection plan is a great idea that may be too late to help

Now that the knowledge of biological paternity is available cheaply and discreetly through services such as 23andMe, Ancestry, and MyHeritage, Milanich has a few worries about what effects that rampantly available knowledge might have on American society and American citizens’ lives. For one thing, she noted, it’s getting harder to keep biological relationships a secret even if you want to, which can seriously undermine people’s perceived right to privacy, not to mention their peace of mind.

Read full, original post: The End of the Age of Paternity Secrets

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