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Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a story about how DNA samples are being shared with law enforcement and other companies by companies that make DNA testing kits.  The article chronicles how FamilyTreeDNA allowed the FBI to useDNA data to solve particularly hideous crimes, including a rape investigation that led to the so-called Golden State Killer.  The report also tells of a Web site called GEDmatch, on which people can upload their DNA results they obtained from commercial companies to see if they can find relatives, saying the site's terms of service allows law enforcement to use the data as well.

In an age where there is no expectation of privacy -- as people blithely share the intimate details of their life on social media and when cameras are everywhere, and peoople even trust their DNA to the US Mail -- the article probably doesn't come as much of a surprise.  More and more people are giving away their most personal information that companies make a profit on with impunity.  All they need is a line or two that nobody reads in their terms of service, and they are free to see you to the world.  That's why those annoying ads seem to follow you everywhere you go in the Internet.

The companies claim that using this information personalizes your experience, so their buying, selling, and sharing of you is a good thing.  What they do is a lot like what identity thieves and stalkers do.  At best it personalizes your experience.  But to many people that feels like a bad thing.  It is creepy, definitely creepy.  And when you think how these companies are making millions of dollars by selling and using the information you freely shared how can you not feel like a chump?  A dope who said, oh yeah, this is valuable stuff, here.  Hey Google, you're not rich enough, so here, use my data.

I recently wondered why, when I had gone to the trouble of changing my Facebook settings to not personalize the ads they show me, I was still getting ads for mostly things I had already bought or at least looked at.  It turns out that advertisers can match up my data with my Facebook account without breaking the rule, because the private data doesn't originate from Facebook.  Although it might originate there if trolls read my posts (my settings say they're not supposed to be able to see them) and I say something about some product or something that might be related to a company that wants me to see their ads.  The companies I bought stuff from are supposedly doing the sharing.

My last Facebook post said, "It’s proving impossible to run out of ants."  I am hoping not to have to see ant spray ads.  Yecch.  I'll admit to ant genocide taking place at my house, but that doesn't mean I like it or want to think about it while reading cousin Betty's latest exploits or watching a video of a kitten with its head stuck in a jar.  If I do start seeing ads like that I suppose it would confirm my deep seated distrust of Facebook (which also extends to Google and like companies).  By the way, at my age I have pretty much run out of aunts.  You can never have enough aunts.  I'd gladly trade all my ants for an aunt or two.

It's difficult to keep your life private without sharing something these days.  The purpose of social media is to share.  And that isn't inherently a bad thing.  But as with anything that could be awesomely good (computers, and email, for example) someone is inevitably going to put it to bad use and ruin the good for everyone (hackers, and spammers, for instance).

DNA is even more personal than your social security number.  This current fad of sending some DNA off to a company to get a generic reading on where you came from is mostly bogus, from what I have read about these test results.  Even if it isn't, the idea of placing something so intimately personal in the hands of a modern day corporation doesn't seem very prudent.  HIPPA doesn't apply to

The trick to maintaining what little balance is possible in modern times is to think before hitting the send button.  Are you giving a part of yourself away?  Is it a part you want to part with?  Or the extreme approach would be to delete your Internet presence, then don't do anything on the Internet, or use credit cards, especially online.  That's it, live in a remote cabin in the woods, wear a plaid shirt, only buy supplies with cash...  wait a minute... that's a serial killer... that's worse than a stalker, right?

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