Service of Trust IV

January 9th, 2023

Categories: Burglary, Data Sharing, DNA, Geneology, Trust

My trust gauge fluctuates. Here’s an example. One of the first things I was taught as a child brought up in a Manhattan apartment with no doorman was before opening the locked door ask: “who is it?” As an adult I subsequently lived in a small co-op in Brooklyn where we never locked our front door even though there was only one doorperson between the buildings and our apartment’s doors. Years later all my doors—there were many–were always locked at our upstate NY country house located in the middle of nowhere. Used to living in apartments, I tried not to think about how easily someone could drop inside the place through a window or sliding glass door.

Data Sharing

Millions who volunteer their DNA are trusting. In “Service of Protecting Your Personal Data,” February 2020 I wrote: “I’m suspicious of any and all data-sharing about my health, my DNA–you name it. Today’s protections can be gone in a flick of a pen with a law change or the information exposed to all as a result of a data breach. Lemmings happily line up to learn about their ancestry and I’m dead set against that… as I’m sure that information won’t be used solely to determine that great grandma came from Minsk.”

And I was correct. According to dna-explained.com “Are you aware that when you purchase a DNA kit for genealogy testing through either 23andMe or Ancestry that you are literally giving these companies carte blanche to your DNA, the rights to your DNA information, including for medical utilization meaning sales to Big Pharm, and there is absolutely no opt-out, meaning they can in essence do anything they want with your anonymized data?”

This is old news. So what’s new?

Password Protection

Those who trusted the password manager LastPass had best change crucial passwords advised New York Times reporter Brian X. Chen in “A Breach at LastPass Has Password Lessons for Us All.”

On hearing the news my sister Elizabeth Baecher reacted by writing: “It’s dangerous to reveal so much as one password to a close friend/relative – so what makes it ‘safe’ to hand the whole Megillah over to strangers?  Each and every victim of that crime should be made to answer that question.  Mine: ‘What could they have been thinking?’”

I agree. As with most people I’m overwhelmed with passwords from benign ones that allow me to post news on websites to crucial ones that give access to checking and credit card accounts. The idea of handing strangers all my passwords triggered a vision of putting a small safe with all my valuables in my living room making it a cinch for a burglar to pick it up and be out the door in seconds.

Have you trusted the ancestry and password managing companies with your information? Are you suspicious sometimes and not nearly enough at others?


Image by Christoph Meinersmann from Pixabay

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9 Responses to “Service of Trust IV”

  1. ASK Said:

    I have steadfastly avoided the convenience of online banking and online password storage for the very reasons you cite.

    And despite urgings from 3 or 4 cousins who have had their DNA tested, I will not do it. In addition to DNA data being sold to big Pharma or made available to law enforcement, there are other more personal difficulties with such testing beyond stray family members suddenly appearing to upset your family dynamic. As examples, one cousin was baffled when it turned out she was 10% Norwegian, surprising since both sides of her family traced back to Italy for several generations. I suggested that perhaps thousands of years before one Nordic fisherman, tired of the punishing winters of his homeland, made his way to a sunnier climate. Another cousin, with an Irish father, tested for 25% Irish, but the remaining genetics were split between French and Spanish heritage. Her mother was Italian, from the same heritage as the first cousin cited. She was surprised and upset. My only advice to her was to continue to make her excellent Risotto alla Milanese, DNA be damned…

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    WOW, ASK,

    I am so naive…I forgot about a similar example to the one you shared. A friend learned that his dad wasn’t his biological dad and that the latter man wasn’t Jewish which the rest of the family was/is. I was told he didn’t care as the man he thought was his dad was dear to him. When he learned this nobody was alive to share details.

  3. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: No and no. As a former reporter and by nature, I’m appropriately cynical.

  4. Martha Takayama Said:

    I really don’t trust any computer exchanges, but I am forever forgetting passwords or being denied access to important accounts, such as medical ones even using saved passwords. Hospital staff even admit to having problems themselves. I am not even sure what sites have my saved information and which I could eliminate all of them. I think the opportunities for scams and theft are greater than ever.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    Some of the obscure numbers and passwords I keep on the refrigerator. For the websites I access to post event information I have passwords on my press lists. I understand how tempting it would be to hope an entity could keep track of them all but foolhardy.

  6. Deborah Wrignt Said:

    What a thought-provoking topic! I have never had a password managing company, but I did do Ancestry about two years ago. They keep sending me messages that I have new relatives; I don’t respond because they are dead ends. I did when I first paid for the original search. Most did not respond to my email and the ones that did said they never heard about either side of my family! I also did another genetic company that advertised online. Their results were poor and inaccurate to what I know for certain. Now, I am wondering. Are you referring to the man who was caught and accused of murdering those four college students? The police used DNA and somehow must have connected the family through Ancestry’s records? Trust always was simple or so I thought.

  7. Minna Rabus Said:

    Minna on Facebook: Two sides to that coin. What if collecting the DNA leads to cures? I’m not naive, I know big pharma seeks to get the coin out of us, but I believe there is much potential in genealogy, and the bigger the pool, better chances for patterns to emerge. Technically anyone walking around with a smartphone is subject to big brother watching. Yes, voluntarily gave up my DNA to 23andMe and have got much back since.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Deb,

    I wasn’t referring to the DNA used to catch a perpetrator–although that’s yet another use that I suspect many subscribers didn’t realize they’d signed up for. By selling the DNA to pharmaceutical companies, in the extreme, a client might lose a job if their DNA showed they would be prone to a disease that might cost their employer big bucks. Could be I’m a cynical New Yorker. Why did Nora Ephron hide her illness shocking so many when she died? Because she knew she wouldn’t get approved by the insurance companies that covered the movie projects she was hired to do in the years she lived with cancer. What a loss that would have been to us and to her.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Responding to Minna on Facebook:

    This is what I wrote to someone who responded on the blog but it makes a point that also applies to your comment–for which I thank you.

    I also think that Big Pharma has enough money to ask for volunteers–maybe even pay them–and not hide behind the skirts of others.

    I wrote: “By selling the DNA to pharmaceutical companies, in the extreme, a client might lose a job if their DNA showed they would be prone to a disease that might cost their employer big bucks. Could be I’m a cynical New Yorker. Why did Nora Ephron hide her illness shocking so many when she died? Because she knew she wouldn’t get approved by the insurance companies that covered the movie projects she was hired to do in the years she lived with cancer. What a loss that would have been to us and to her.”

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