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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Genetic testing companies that trace customers' ancestry are amassing huge databases of DNA information, and some are sharing access with law enforcement, drugmakers and app developers, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
Why it matters: At-home DNA testing kits are soaring in popularity, but many consumers who took the tests to learn more about their family trees may not realize how that data is being shared for other purposes.
The big picture: What started out as a novelty for genealogists has gone mainstream. There are now more than 50 DNA-testing kit services on the market, estimates Carson Martinez, a health policy fellow at the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF).
Driving the news: This month FamilyTreeDNA came under fire for voluntarily giving the FBI routine access to its database of more than 1 million users' data, allowing agents to test DNA samples from crime scenes against customers' genetic information to look for family matches.
Drugmakers also want access. Ancestry.com and 23andMe — the largest companies that have DNA data of 15 million users combined — both share anonymized genetic data with pharmaceutical companies.
Reality check: Commercial DNA-testing services aren't specifically covered by federal privacy rules, such as HIPAA, because they aren't health providers or insurers.
The DNA services have grown popular without most consumers realizing that their data could be used for purposes other than genealogy, such as forensics, said Benjamin Berkman, a bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health, who wrote about ethical issues of using genealogy data to solve crimes in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The bottom line: Read the fine print before uploading your genetic data, Berkman said, and use care when interpreting the results.
A full 81% of consumers say that in the past year they've become more concerned with how companies are using their data, and 87% say they've come to believe companies that manage personal data should be more regulated, according to a survey out Monday by IBM's Institute for Business Value.
Yes, but: They aren't totally convinced they should care about how their data is being used, and many aren't taking meaningful action after privacy breaches, according to the survey, Kim reports. Despite increasing data risks, 71% say it's worth sacrificing privacy given the benefits of technology.
By the numbers:
The other side: Fewer than half (45%) report that they've updated privacy settings, and only 16% stopped doing business with an entity due to data misuse.
Be smart: There's a surprisingly large group of consumers globally who are clueless about the risks to their data: 3 out of 10 people polled say they're unaware of data breaches that have occurred. But awareness grows with every massive privacy incident, and so does pressure on businesses to button up their data policies.
The big cellphone industry trade show called Mobile World Congress officially begins today, but most of the big product introductions have already taken place.
The bottom line: The big things this year are products you either can't afford or ones you can't quite get yet, like 5G. In some cases, they're both.
Airbnb signage on display at WIRED25 Work: Inside San Francisco's Most Innovative Workplaces. Photo: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25
A year after begrudgingly integrating its host sign-up process with San Francisco’s city registration system for short-term rentals and removing unregistered hosts, Airbnb says that home listings in the city have grown 22% to more than 7,800, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
Why it matters: Historically, Airbnb has fought against regulations, especially those that could make it harder for new hosts to join its service and get in the way of its business growth.
The bottom line: Airbnb is steadily growing, hitting the numbers it had before its big compliance integration a year ago.
Yes, but: Airbnb is still not done battling cities. Last week, New York City issued a subpoena for data from the company to make sure hosts aren’t breaking the law, a move that came weeks after a judge halted a city law that would crack down on short-term rentals.
Go deeper: Kia has more here.
This Canadian dad and coach miked up his kid at hockey practice to get a better sense of what he was experiencing. The results were hilarious and adorable.