Why I won't get a 23andMe account for Christmas

23andMe.com is a website launched by Sergey Brin's wife Anne Wojcicki. For $999 your whole genome can be sequenced. They then claim to offer datamining tools, find characteristics about you, your genetic history, predispositions to possible illness, whom you get that allergy from, etc etc.

I won't buy that for christmas. Why?

Am I put of by the stiff $999? Well a bit but it still seems reasonable. Am I, like many libertarians concerned with the disclosure of my personal information? After all, is my DNA is on the internet, it means omg-gattaca-totalitarian-society. Nope, I don't give a damn.

A quick tour will give you the answer:

Genetic Nondiscrimination.

Various state laws exist to protect individuals from genetic discrimination. On a national level, we support passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), currently under consideration by the U.S. Congress.

So what is GINA?

The Genetic Nondiscrimination Act of 2007 (GINA) was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 420-3. The act will protect individuals against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment. These protections are intended to encourage Americans to take advantage of genetic testing as part of their medical care.

Although I'm dying to use the service I'm not giving $999 to fund socialism >(

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Damn, that sounds so cool,

Damn, that sounds so cool, but so pricey. I'll have to do some research.

Hard to avoid companies that lobby or deal with government

Arthur, you'd better avoid buying pretty much any product in the US, becuase there's a good chance your seller is lobbying the government. For starters, don't buy drugs, because Big Pharma most certainly lobbies the government. Be very careful about what entertainment you enjoy, because companies like Disney lobby the government. Don't use the Internet, at least not over a cable connection. Don't use a cell phone, or any phone for that matter. Don't use water or electricity.

I wrote this a bit inpus

I wrote this a bit inpusively and you are right to point out that most business lobby the state. Most lobby the state to serve their own interest. In a way, I believe 23andMe is serving its own interest: supporting GINA creates a "we're not evil" image in the eye of most people... but I feel there's something more going on here, I feel they genuilely believe in it.

They don't try to buy politicians sneakily, they fully assume and even advertise their endorsement of this law, it's one of their value. They slam it to my face after I spent 20 seconds on the site. 

When I buy airplane tickets, open a bank account, I know lobbying has been going on, I just live with it. Here, they make me feel like I endorse their value.

 

 

Not that I want to defend

Not that I want to defend their lobbying efforts, but I can understand where they are coming from. A significant portion of their customer base probably responds to the sales pitch with something along the lines of, "Great service, I'm interested, but what will stop the wrong people (employers, insurance companies, the government) from getting access to my genetic information and using it against me?" Privacy ranks very low on my personal list of concerns, but I can see why a company with this business model would want to assuage the privacy concerns through legislation.
So while the lobbying is obviously self-interested in this case, it's indirectly selfish; i.e. the company doesn't benefit directly from the legislation, but rather indirectly from satisfying a widespread customer fear. That's why they advertise their lobbying efforts rather than keep them on the down-low.