Why your DNA is a goldmine for marketers – The Globe and Mail



Further to the earlier Would you make your DNA and health data public if it may help cure disease? on some of the genetic research initiatives underway, the less positive side of genetic ‘marketing’. While my sense is that the exact mix of genetics, epigenetics, and environmental factors is more complex than some of the advocates and activists are interested in or concerned about, there is a line – (DNA should not be just another ‘data point’ to sell stuff. Quote:

Yet there’s little doubt that human genomes could be a marketer’s dream: a six-billion-unit code brimming with nothing but personal data, pointing out people at risk of obesity, or cancers and high cholesterol, or even those with dead-straight hair, making the carriers of these gene variants prime targets to receive tailored ads for, say, discount gym memberships, weight-loss programs, antioxidants, cholesterol-lowering drugs or even home perms.

And while privacy advocates fret over marketers delving into people’s DNA, others don’t see genetic information as being much different than the plethora of other details already collected about consumers – the online searches they conduct, the personal experiences they post, where and when they shop, or what they buy.

“Conceptually, I don’t see a difference between DNA and the amount of information that’s already out there about everything that people do,” said Adam Froman, CEO of Delvinia, a Toronto-based digital-strategy firm. “It’s just another data point.”

Why your DNA is a goldmine for marketers – The Globe and Mail.


4 thoughts on “Why your DNA is a goldmine for marketers – The Globe and Mail

  1. You point to a really interesting article and an amazing concept. Namely, DNA is what makes us who we are. The information is the most basic form of individualism that exists. Should it be private or public? My take is that legal steps need to be taken to ensure that it remains private if you wish it to. If you want it to be used for public good, we can create laws the anonymize your data by not explicitly connecting it to you (name, Social security number, etc). That way it can be used for research purposes but not for marketing as you suggest. Check out my article for another point of view on the wild wild west of genetic policy: http://grosenfeld.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/first-policy-issue-its-freaking-genetics-baby/

  2. Reblogged this on grosenfeld and commented:
    I thought this blog raises very interesting points about genetics policy. Namely, if DNA is the stuff that makes us most unique, then marketers would be extremely interested in having access to this information. From the superficial, you have variant X in gene Y which means your skin will react more adversely to the sun so try our new sunblock specifically for you!! To the more invasive, your drug representative wants you to know that –insert generic drug name here– is perfect for people of your genetic background since it can help prevent the early onset of Alzheimers. Perhaps we want this?

    My thoughts are that legal structures need to be put in place to ensure that this genetic information (your most primal ID code) is not just “another data point” to sell to marketers. In response to this whole issue, perhaps we should institute a law that makes it illegal to reproduce or distribute a person’s genetic information without their consent. Seems logical to me. To those who argue for the merits of the research benefits or freely distributible genetic information, I say let the people who are that genetic information decide whats distributed. For instance, once people’s DNA has been sequenced, they can decide if they want this information to be used for research purposes. It could even be anonymized just as information about our browsing habits, or computer malfunctions are when reported to google or apple.

    • Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I think part of the problem is that there is a current regulatory and legal void in many countries. I also tend to favour a consent-based approach, much along the lines of some existing privacy legislation.

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