Have you just unwittingly provided one of the billions of DNA samples currently being collected across the globe? If you’ve been tested for Covid then the answer is a definitive yes. The Covid-19 test allows laboratories the opportunity to extract your DNA from the sample you’ve provided. The purpose of this article is not prove that this is being done, but rather to question why no one has sounded the alarm bells. They should be ringing themselves off the wall and yet, the silence is deafening.
The premise is simple. The opportunity has presented itself. Two of the largest groups intimately involved with fighting the pandemic are government and large pharmaceutical conglomerates. If we have learned anything in the last few months it is that neither are to be trusted and both lack the ethical backbone to resist the temptation.
Why would they want your DNA? The list is as endless and the motivations as diverse as the samples themselves. DNA data is arguably one of the primary currencies of our brave new world. Corporations and governments that control this data can control you and I and quite literally, the world.
The purpose of this article is not spread wholesale panic but to raise awareness. The media and the scientific community have been completely remiss in highlighting this issue.
The value of your DNA
The US government holds a database of unsolved crimes with DNA samples as their only evidence. Somewhere out there, in cities across America, wanted felons are wondering into clinics to get tested for Covid. Do you think this once in a lifetime opportunity is going to pass by unnoticed? Can you imagine the potential savings months down the line to law enforcement. Future criminals have just left their name, address and DNA at a testing center near you. Homeland Security must be rubbing their hands in glee.
Recently, in 2019, a US state judge forced a public genealogy site, GEDmatch, to allow police to search its entire database of DNA profiles. A detective wanted to find distant relatives of a serial rapist in hopes that their family trees could help him home in on a suspect — even though most of the 1.3 million people who shared their DNA data with the site had not agreed to such a search.
From a monetary viewpoint, access to a collection of DNA on a global or country wide scale would fundamentally shift power bases. It’s not a statement made lightly. Data – and your DNA is essentially data waiting to be interpreted – is our new currency and we now possess the computational power to make sense of it. We can now abuse it as never before.
Mortgages, college applications, work, access to healthcare and more will be determined by the content of your chromosomes. It is already happening across the US and other countries.
Companies can, for instance, refuse you insurance or load your premiums based on genetic markers in your DNA. It’s a simple but very clear example of how your DNA can be used against you. This already happens, as referenced further below in this article.
Your life will almost undoubtedly be dictated by your DNA in the not too distant future as more and more genetic markers are identified. Mortgages, college applications, work and access to healthcare will be determined by the content of your chromosomes. Get tagged with a gene that indicates alcoholism and good luck getting that mortgage. Your risk profile just went north.
Test positive at birth for a genetic marker that indicates an increased risk of psychotic behavior and your future in politics is almost certainly guaranteed. A joke of sorts but you understand the real world implications. They are terrifying and they aren’t the subject of science fiction. They are now science fact and the subject of very concerned discussion in the halls of legal academia.
These concerns have led to the creation of LawSeq. A website has been set up with a searchable database of US laws that govern your genetic data. Just to be clear, currently in the US, your genetic anonymity is almost never guaranteed.
Until recently, the issues we’d faced interpreting or identifying shared traits or markers from DNA samples was an insufficient data set and the means with which to analyze said data. Covid has just solved the first issue and quantum computing and vastly improved computational power is rapidly overcoming the second.
The pandemic has given governments across the globe the opportunity to harvest our DNA on a scale hitherto unimaginable. Never before have so many people handed over their DNA so willingly, apparently blissfully unaware of the potential for abuse. Not a single question has been raised about it. Not by the press and not by the public. Why? The paranoia and panic surrounding the pandemic may be partly to blame. Its the perfect cover at a pivotal moment in the world.
The Covid-19 test is the ultimate DNA harvesting tool. It comes with a name, an address and is given without the need for coercion. In fact, people have been lining up for it.
Whilst the purpose behind getting the test isn’t primarily about your DNA, but trying rather to identify traces of the Coronavirus in your system, this opportunity will not be lost on those who make their living from our DNA or those who stand to profit from it.
Legally, where do you stand?
Great question and not an easy one to answer. It depends, to a large degree, on where you live. If it happens to be Iceland, you couldn’t care less. Almost every single individual in Iceland has turned over their DNA voluntarily as part of their Genome project.
It is an admirable undertaking with sound medical goals and a desire to better understand how our genes affect our health and susceptibility to diseases. It also been done with the utmost transparency and the willing engagement of the Icelandic people.
Move across the frozen seas in the direction of America and things change. They change dramatically. There is no transparency, no oversight and a plethora of financially and politically motivated individuals just waiting to screw you over, and in case you didn’t realize, your DNA is ripe for the picking.
You do, in theory, own the right to your DNA in the US. It’s the reason a court order is required to make you hand it over should you be unwilling and the court determines it is in the public interest. There are however a number of huge loopholes in the law. The problem with the current system comes down to the fact that genetic data can have multiple uses beyond its original one.
Say you participate in a research study or clinical trial that generates DNA data. A federal law protecting human subjects, called the US Common Rule, mandates that you be informed of how your data might be shared prior to signing a consent document. In 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which also provides any federal research subjects with a certificate of confidentiality.
This restricts the researchers collecting your genetic data from releasing it to law enforcement or other government agencies. And if that information were to somehow be illegally obtained, through a hack or some other breach, it would be inadmissible in court.
Great, but say you want to add that genetic information to your electronic health record, so it’s available to your doctor. Now it becomes a piece of personal health data, governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Under HIPAA, your genetic data can’t be given to your school or employer, but law enforcement agencies are entitled to access it without a warrant if you’re the victim or suspect of a criminal investigation.
Your insurance provider can also access it. That’s why, in 2008, Congress passed the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, which prevents health insurers from denying coverage or jacking up prices based on someone’s genetic predisposition to various health conditions. (They can still do that if your genes make you actively sick – GINA becomes basically useless once you show symptoms.)
GINA also doesn’t apply to long-term-care insurance, life insurance, or disability insurance, though it does ban employers from using it to decide who gets hired, fired, promoted, or given a raise.
Business and government want your genetic data. They will ensure they get hold of it, one way or another
It is however going to get worse. Much worse, as this recent article from Wired points out.
OF ALL THE provisions of the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare,” if you’re on a first-name basis – the one that seemed the most uncontroversially humane was the guarantee that insurance companies could not use so-called preexisting conditions to deny coverage. If you had a chronic illness or had recovered from something and lost your insurance, or if you quit or got fired, you could still get onto a plan.
But the odds say that sick people stay sick or get sicker, and insurance companies don’t make a profit by paying out. By voting to repeal the ACA and replace it with … well, with something, not totally clear what, the Republican-led House of Representatives seems to have nuked the preexisting condition guarantee. The new bill, which passed in a close 217–213 vote, allows insurance companies to charge sick people more. According to one nonpartisan analysis, it allocates enough money to cover those higher rates for just 5 percent of people with preexisting conditions.
Think it can’t get worse? The ACA specifically protected against discrimination for preexisting conditions that showed up through genetic tests. You might not be sick yet – in technical terms, the illness has not manifested – but if you, for example, test positive for one of the pathogenic variants (a less X-Manly term than “mutation”) in the BRCA gene that predisposes you to breast cancer, you could still get covered. If the House bill becomes law, that protection vanishes.
The tip of the iceberg
Business and government want your genetic data. They will ensure they get hold of it, one way or another, either in collusion with each other or independently. Their reasons for wanting the data are not to better serve you. Never ever make that mistake.
The information contained in your DNA will be used for social engineering. It is already happening right under our noses. Your DNA will used to “stream” you for careers, health and life insurance premiums, access to services and, depending on the lengths we take it to, possibly even prison, if they ever identify markers associated with criminal behavior.
New biological genetically-based weapons are no doubt already under discussion in the Oval Office. Imagine being able to target a gene unique to a certain population or demographic. It’s a can of worms we can’t close in the hands of individuals we cannot trust and the pandemic has offered them the keys to Aladdin’s cave. We need to ensure they aren’t using them.
So what do we do?
The opportunity to exploit Covid-19 testing clearly exists, but is it happening? There is no hard evidence to confirm it, but sufficient reason to assume it is being done covertly. Under a Trump led regime that is actively legislating to enable free commercial access to your DNA, why would they intentionally choose to overlook this free goldmine of data?
Can we stop it? Probably not, is the short answer and that of course raises the question of where that leaves you an I? Do we simply accept the inevitability of a society regulated by genes rather than free choice? Or do we raise our hands in united outrage and demand changes. Wholesale changes, to our rights, our freedoms and our privacy.
A simple legal undertaking by all testing facilities not to perform any tests beyond the scope of the original purpose of a test would be a start. An undertaking to destroy all sample materials provided in a responsible and timely manner and not to share, or allow access to, any of the materials or identifying information provided by the patient. Massive penalties and the prospect of prison would enforce these undertakings.
Were you asked to sign anything when you underwent your Covid-19 test? How long was the document and what information did it require? What was in the fine print and did you read it?
Anyone with access to these testing documents is welcome to email copies or photos of the documents to us. This open invitation extends to the testing laboratories should they wish to actively address the concerns raised above and perhaps highlight how they deal with these issues currently. Submissions can be made anonymously to firstname.lastname@example.org and all submissions will be considered confidential.
You can also reach out to your local government at state level. Social media in this instance becomes our best friend. Publically highlighting an issue often ensures it is addressed in a transparent and accountable manner and also serves to draw the attention of a noticeably absent media.