If you could put a price tag on your DNA exactly how much would you charge for it? A few hundred, a few thousand, a couple million? If you’ve never considered selling your DNA for cold hard cash, you may want to start thinking about it. Geneticists are developing ways to better tailor ad experiences based off of a users DNA. That DNA could then be sold companies for marketing and research. Think about it, a Facebook ad that targets you and only you, based on you! Hrm. Yes. Nothing could possibly go wrong with this plan.
Wired reports that a start-up in Minneapolis called Miinome is working on a platform that helps consumers control what offers they get from retailers. The company plans to combine an individuals genetic code with social media activity and environmental information, in the hopes of creating a juggernaut of personal data. This data would be the Holy Grail for companies who would obviously pay a hefty price for such invaluable information.
The company promises that participation will be opt-in only and that companies will never be able to get their hands on the ‘raw’ form of your genetic code but there are obvious questions associated with the development of this kind of technology. Like: How will this data be protected? What happens when the data is inevitability breached? Who the hell wants to see ads that personal?
Miinome appears to be under the impression that ads which are tailored to our exact environmental, social, and genetic needs, would make us more likely to buy something. I guarantee you that the problem is not impersonal ads but rather the existence of ads at all that results in our disinterest. I don’t disregard ads because they don’t address the issues that arise from my lazy eye. I disregard ads because they are annoying.
23andMe is a genomics company that partners with research firms (read pharmaceutical companies) who then use your genetic code is used for research that you don’t have a say over. Did you want to take part in the development of a new biochemical weapon, oh well too bad you don’t have a choice. Okay, so that’s a little dramatic, but the entire thing reminds me of the Christian Bale movie Equilibrium.
It’s not all fear-mongering and conspiracy theories though. These consumer genomics companies could possibly use your genetic data to help drug researches develop medicines to cure diseases more efficiently.
While these companies promise anonymity, there is something not so private about your DNA. You know, as it kind of identifies you, exactly you, and only you. Well, and possibly your cousins, family and ancestors. Wired claims that the key to companies like Miinome working, is to educate consumers about safely sharing their information. If Facebook is any indication of an individuals ability (or lack thereof) to safely share information, then we all may be in real trouble.