The upstart direct-to-consumer DNA-testing company Nebula Genomics announced on [September 19] that it will offer anonymous genome sequencing, becoming the first to do so amid public concerns about the privacy of genetic data and law enforcement use of public DNA databases to identify suspects.
Customers will be able to purchase Nebula’s whole-genome sequencing “without sharing their name, address, or credit card information,” said Nebula co-founder and chief scientific officer Dennis Grishin.
To pay for testing, customers would use a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or a prepaid credit or debit card. They would use a nameless P.O. box to receive the sample collection kit. To access results, customers would create an email address not traceable to them (Nebula recommends ProtonMail).
Genetic privacy experts are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
Part of the lukewarm response to Nebula’s pitch reflects the fact that testing companies, as well as academic researchers, already “de-identify” genetic data.
But much genomic data can be re-identified fairly easily, scientists reported last year. “Enabling individuals to remain pseudo-anonymous would eliminate the dependence on data deidentification” and the accompanying risk of re-identification, the Nebula team wrote.
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