Why Does Google Want Your DNA? | reallygraceful


Hey internet friends. Within all of us are traces of the past, present,
and future. We carry the imprint of our ancestors which
resulted in the sequence of right now— us—in this moment, chock-full of quirks our children
will inherit–all written into our DNA: the hereditary material found in everyone, but
is so specific and unique to an individual that it can reveal how likely we are to have
freckles, how we interpret different tastes and smells, if we’re carriers for certain
diseases, and how our genes indicate our overall well-being. DNA tells a story, acting as a roadmap through
our body’s deeply intimate data. An individual’s DNA is more identifying than a name, a social
security number, or even a fingerprint. So why is a multinational tech company with
a focus on internet-related services and products so interested in the genetic codes of millions
of strangers? Why does a company that data mines from you
want to mine DNA from you? And most importantly, why does Google want
your DNA? Let me begin by introducing you to the Wojcicki sisters. You probably already know Susan; she’s served
as the CEO of YouTube since 2014. Her sister, Janet, is a professor of pediatrics,
with a great deal of her work taking place in Africa. The youngest sister, Anne, is the CEO of 23andme,
a for-profit human genome research company that allows consumers to study their ancestry,
genealogy, and inherited traits. Anne was once married to Sergey Brin, Google’s
co-founder and current President of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.The story goes
a lil’ somethin’ like this: in 1998, Susan rented out her garage to Google founders Sergey
Brin and Larry Page. Susan was hired as Google’s 18th employee,
and Sergey married her sister, Anne, in 2007—one year after Anne co-founded 23andme. If you were wondering about the 23, it represents
the number of chromosome pairs in humans. The company began as a mail-order genetics
testing firm backed by investors like Anne’s husband. The company offers kits that test and produce
reports which reveal anything from your ancestry to whether or not you carry genetic markers
that are associated with risks for certain health conditions, to reports on your overall
wellness and muscle composition, and your likelihood of inheriting certain traits, ranging
from hair color to how your body responds to alcohol or caffeine.All you have to do
is purchase the kit, register it, spit in a tube, mail your pre-paid package back to
23andme, and then wait several weeks for your results. 23andMe’s biobank is the world’s largest
repository of DNA samples. This biobank contains extensive health information
on millions of individuals, and these DNA samples were willingly provided by paying
customers. Selling access to this biobank to undisclosed
third parties is a major source of profit for 23andme. They’ve essentially monetized the human genome,
which is all the genetic information on a person—packaged and sold like a commodity. This is probably why Google Ventures, the
investment arm of Google, continues to financially back 23andme, because Google already stores
categories of the world’s information—having the world’s largest repository of DNA samples
certainly gives them an advantage in the multi-billion dollar medical field. Though, to build this biobank and continue
to profit, 23andme is always searching for new ways to get customers to join. That’s probably why you recognize their rainbow
box kit that has been heavily marketed across television and the internet, propagated endlessly
on Anne’s sister’s stronghold, YouTube, by some of the same influencers who have interviewed
the president at the White House and hosted Bill Gates on their channel. Other video makers create sponsored videos
detailing their test results, showcasing special and unique details about themselves to their
captive audience. You can see their sponsored referral links
in their video descriptions. The packaging of this sponsored content often
mirrors the packaging of the 23andme kit, adorned with rainbow imagery, framing this
whole pay-to-get-your-DNA-stored-in-a-biobank as harmless entertainment. But if we travelled somewhere over the rainbow,
and we discovered a lab in which we could put 23andme under a microscope, would we observe
only harmless entertainment for the consumer? Would 23andme’s mission statement, “To help
people access, understand, and benefit from from the human genome”—would this mission
statement stand tall amongst other noble pursuits? Or would we see a more complex reality? We’ve already identified 23andMe’s Silicon
Valley roots with 23andme’s personal and professional relationship with Google. Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., resides
in Silicon Valley amongst other juggernauts like Apple, Amazon, and even Twitter. Companies that sell our data to third parties,
and of course the government can access this data as well—all they usually need is a
warrant. We’ve allowed these companies to have access
to our minds, our homes, our fingerprints, and now our DNA, because we believed we were
the customer when we were actually the product. Plus we didn’t have time to read those dozens
of pages of terms and conditions. Ain’t nobody got time for that. (Ain’t nobody got time for that) *meme*Now
that we’ve established how the human genome is monetized by companies like 23andme, let’s
discuss the privacy concerns, the potential for weaponization, and how the brave new world
of the for-profit genome industry affects everyone. Concern over access to individual’s DNA data
reignited back in April, when California law enforcement announced the arrest of suspect
Joseph James DeAngelo, otherwise known as the Golden State Killer, a name given a serial
killer from the 1970s. Recently, investigators reanalyzed the DNA
found at one of the crime scenes, ran the results through a DNA database which linked
to one of DeAngelo’s relatives. That’s how they were able to tie him to the
murders. While we can all agree it’s great that they
might’ve found a serial killer, the companies who build and host these data bases are largely
unregulated. How are we to know that this data is secure? Or who has access to it? With DNA being a revealing source of information
about an individual, this is where the water begins to get murky:
Your DNA sequence isn’t yours alone; you share it with your relatives. And even though companies like 23andme say
they remove your information like your name and address when they allow third parties
to access your DNA, anonymized DNA will never be truly anonymous, because genes serve as
identifying information. Studies have revealed that researchers could
correctly uncover people’s surnames from their genetic data alone with the aid of a DNA database. While the United States government already
has most of our DNA on file if you were born in a hospital, joined the military, or were
incarcerated in some states, DNA databases make it all the more convenient to nail you
to a crime. Besides, DNA evidence is easily fabricated. It can be planted on crime scenes. Even the most advanced DNA testing cannot
prove how the DNA got to the crime scene when we are shedding skin cells and leaving our
greasy fingerprints all over doorknobs wherever we go. With this new era of DNA testing, DNA altering
services have emerged along with gene editing tools, so criminals could, theoretically,
have their DNA permanently altered to avoid a repeat of this Golden State Killer situation. Doesn’t gene editing sound like the basis
of some weird sci-fi movie? Well, often the truth is stranger than fiction. For example, Google Ventures founder Bill
Maris dismissed the fight to protect the privacy of genetic data , stating that “if we keep
our genetic information a secret, then we’re all going to die.” Someone needs to break it to ol’ Bill that
no one makes it out of life alive. But apparently he’s pretty dedicated to the
concept of immortality. Maris is the founder of Calico, who also invests
in AncestryDNA—the goal of Calico is to “hack the DNA of life and combat the effects
of aging.” Back in 2013, when Maris was asked about the
research going on at Google Ventures, Maris indicated that the research could extend the
human lifespan to five hundred years, and he urged folks to embrace the idea of a life
everlasting. But here’s the thing: members of the upper
echelon already use their platform to push the narrative that overpopulation is a problem,
and in the future, the earth’s resources will be exhausted without population control. But if an extended life span is achieved,
wouldn’t overpopulation worsen? So, how would it be determined who is allowed
to live that long? Who can reproduce? Who gets to decide?Have you heard that scientists
have linked genes to intelligence? 23andme said “it’s not telling people their
brain rating out of concern the information would be poorly received.” So brainscores from DNA tests are being documented,
just not disclosed to the consumer? What standards or incentives are in place
for accuracy on reporting these scores amongst for-profit companies, whether it be scores
for wellness or intelligence? And if the goal of 23andme investors like
Google Ventures is to extend the lifespan and eventually achieve immortality, will brainscores
play a factor in who is approved to live that long? 23andme already holds a designer baby patent,
through which parents could predict certain traits in children. More specifically, what has been patented
is the “method of predicting, from parents DNA, the likelihood their baby would have
certain traits.” The patent itself describes how this system
could be utilized in fertility clinics, where the baby’s sex, weight, eye color, intelligence
or personality characteristics, and even their risks for certain medical conditions could
be decided upon before the baby is even conceived. While 23andme reported they have no plans
to use this designer baby system to the fullest extent, this does sound like a slippery slope
to eugenics, or “the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding
to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics,” which, spoiler alert!. has
already been practiced in the United States and resulted in compulsory sterilization of
patients in mental hospitals, and the creation the N/e/g/r/o Project in 1939 by P/l/a/n/n/e/d
P/a/r/e/n/t/h/o/o/d founder Margaret Sanger, which yielded in a push for birth control
amongst African American communities. Eugenics in the United States is not limited
to these examples, but they do serve as a cautionary tale that yes, eugenics happened
long ago and these eugenicists are still around today. Which brings us to our next point: did you
know there’s such a thing as ethno-bombs? Think of a biological weapon like anthrax
or even the bubonic plague, but the weapon is tailored to target sequences that belong
to specific ethnicities. In 1998, it was reported that Israel was developing
a biological weapon targeted at Arab genes, leaving the ethnically J/e/w/i/s/h unharmed. The ethno-bomb they aimed to create was a
genetically modified bacterium or virus. That was twenty years ago! Recently it was revealed that Google has been
providing the US military with their artificial intelligence technology. Is this why Google met with the White House
427 times during President Obama’s tenure? How long until 23andme’s biobank is utilized
by third parties like the US military to develop genetically targeted biological weapons? Or is that already taking place?While biological
warfare has been around for some time, it seems like we have a few more years until
designer babies are a reality for the average citizen. Right now, a potential soft eugenics is beginning
to form, not all the sole responsibility of 23andme…the blame really falls on the behalf
of American legislators who are in the deep pockets of lobbyists. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination
Act of 2008 prohibits some types of genetic discrimination in obtaining health insurance
and employment. But there are loop holes. Last year, members of Congress attempted to
remove a portion of the genetic privacy protection, allowing employers to demand to see their
employees genetic information. This is worrisome when we factor in the rise
of direct-to-consumer DNA testing, the market of which is projected to grow exponentially
over the next decade. On the 23andme website, the fine print reads:
“If you are asked by an insurance company whether you have learned genetic information
about health conditions and you do not disclose them…” it may be considered fraud on your
behalf. So, in the future, when the trend continues
to show that our legislators favor corporations over citizens, if your aunt or brother or
grandma take a DNA test and their results reveal they have a propensity towards a difficult
to treat condition, will your employer or insurer drop you after having access to your
family’s DNA reports? With the average American not being able to
cover the costs of out-of-pocket health care, will we see a rise in deaths associated with
treatable conditions once insurance companies have access to these reports and individuals’
genes are used against them? So let’s circle back to this question: why
does Google want your DNA? While I realize the possibilities and examples
I provided in this video paint a dark picture, it’s important you understand that even the
smallest act can change the course of the future. The purpose of this video is not to belittle
your wants or desires of discovering information about yourself and your family, but my goal
here is to illustrate that we’ve allowed companies to have access to our homes, our minds, and
now our DNA. Yes, technology is a double-edged sword. It has the potential to help and to harm. If we look back on our history with these
tech companies like Google, we’d see that our privacy was never taken from us; we gave
it up willingly. But that doesn’t mean we have to keep repeating
this pattern. Please take a moment to research the risks
associated with any service you use, whether it’s posting a picture of your newborn baby
on Facebook, or sending a vial of your spit to a DNA testing company. What do you think, internet friends? Have you used these DNA testing services? What was your experience? You know I always look forward to your comments. Thank you so much for watching and supporting
my channel on Patreon. Bye!

100 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *