We know we’re thinking about our sensitive information right now, and you might be wondering why you should hand over your genetic information. Well the answer is that you don’t. And you actually won’t, but we’ll get to that in a minute. We wanted to talk about data security and address your privacy concerns head-on.
When we talk about the genetics of attraction, we’re looking at 11 genes that have to do with your immune system. There’s a lot of scientific data to back up why immune systems (ours and others) help us determine who we’re attracted to. The more different your genes are from someone else, the more chemically and biologically attracted you will be to one another We’ll get into that in another blog, because the evolutionary science behind it is actually pretty cool.
But even when we look at your immune system, we’re actually only sequencing 11 genes. These 11 genes are called your human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and they encode for your immune system, (the only part we’re interested in). What about the rest of your genes? No idea. We can’t and don’t see them.
Now some of you might be thinking, “well 11 genes is still at least one more gene than I’m comfortable just having out there.” Good news! It’s not just “out there.” When you send in your cheek swab sample, it arrives at our very secure lab, right here in the U.S. Like any good lab, they have a set of security protocols that they follow very closely.
The analysts take the buccal (a fun word for cheek) swab, take a sample from that swab, and sequence it. Once they do that, they destroy the sample and the swab. All we get is the raw genetic data for those 11 genes we just talked about. We then map this out against someone else’s HLA to determine attraction, and this constitutes a single variable in your dating profile: how chemically attracted you are to someone.
And that’s it! That’s all there is and that’s all we see. We can’t determine anything about your genetic predisposition to certain conditions, race, age, eye color, hair color, or any other physical attributes from this sequence.
So now that you know what we see and what we can do with it, let’s talk about how we store this data. All of your data, including your social media data, is linked stored completely separately from your name and other identifiers. And all of these things are heavily encrypted and very secure. Even in the worst case possible scenario, your data is completely safe. If you want more info on this part, we’d love to talk to you about it.
We can also assure you with absolute certainty that we will never sell or distribute your data. We actually only look at your data once it has been de-identified from you. You are, however, always welcome to opt-in for your data to be sent to the cancer registry for the purpose of cancer research, but even then, we don’t ever actually see your data and you have to enter yourself into the database.
We run everything on consent, and we want to make sure that you have complete agency over what happens with your data. Remember, we’re all trained scientists, so ethics is a huge deal to us. We’ve all had extensive ethics training, and we wouldn’t be comfortable doing anything if we thought it could compromise your privacy, data, or security.
So just to clarify, are we sequencing your DNA? Yes. Are we seeing all of your genetic data? No. Is your data safe and secure? Yes. Do you need to worry? No. Can you still opt-in for your genetic information to be used for cancer research? Yes. Will we see the data on that registry? Absolutely not. Will we see anything other than your HLA? Nope.
And there you have it. We hope we’ve cleared up some confusion! Your data is as safe with us as it is with you (and maybe even a little safer). Now all you have to worry about is your opening line for that first date.