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What are the risks of having your genome publicly available?

by Mati_Roy11th Feb 202013 comments


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6 Answers

Ooh I know this one


  • Health insurance
  • Adversarial dirt
  • Increased police attention, false positives
  • DNA framing
  • Releases info about my family members
  • Probabilistic homophobia (etc)
  • Mate choice

Plus a few I wouldn't worry about even if I lived 500 years (signature bioweapons, clones)

One aspect of this would be future possibilities of targeting viruses, poisons et cetera to a specific genome. But such targeted bioweapons seem more likely to be broadly targeted to ethnic groups. See e.g. here. A more general answer would be that by making your genome publicly available you also share all inferences that can be made form your genome with anyone who wants to make them. The set of inferences that can create risks for you do not only include the ones that are accurate and scientifically robust, but also all such inferences that gain some credibility in a society -- which means that you are at risk, generally, to become a target based on real or fictional properties of your genome.

I'm not sure, but my guess is that most of the risk lies in the future, i.e. the risks are in things that might be possible to do later that aren't possible to do now. I say this both because it doesn't seem very dangerous right now and because I can imagine ways in which it would be dangerous, albeit as an outsider to biology, epidemiology, and genetics.

Publicly available and identifiable as you?

If you have genetic markers for various diseases present in your genome potential employers, insurance companies etc. could use this information - most likely for their benefit rather than for the benefit of the individual so I'd class this as a big potential risk that should be considered.

Some other risks/benefits based on perspective:

Your genome matches with something on a criminal database for a crime you've committed in the past and you get caught.

Your genome leads to a partial match on a criminal database for crime committed by a blood relative. They get caught

You happen to be a good genetic match for someone who needs body parts and isn't adverse to using yours without asking permission.

One minor risk: someone will create a baby using your genom and theirs and you have to pay child support.

Uh, if you're worried about UFAI I'd be more concerned about your digital footprint. The concern with UFAI is that it might decide to torture a clone of you(who isn't the same as you unless the UFAI has a ton of other information about you, which is a separate thing) instead of somebody else. It doesn't seem that much worse from a selfless or selfish point of view.