Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that uses consumer data and demographics to identify the interests of specific individuals or very small groups of like-minded individuals to influence their thoughts or actions. For example, how many times have you been discussing a vacation or a type of product, only to find your social media feed full of related images and advertisements? This is no coincidence. This is a form of microtargeting. According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, DNA data are beginning to become part of microtargeting.
In their report in the Journal of Marketing, they state that with the fast accumulation of genetic data from consumer DNA tests, and the rapid advances in methodology for genetic-based inference, the use of genetic data for marketing purposes is likely to become more and more common in the future. But how could our DNA be fished for embedded preferences and habits, and wouldn’t our permission be needed?
Apparently this is already happening. According to the Genetic Literacy Project, DNA data sharing in advertising can already affect your playlists and vacation rentals. In 2018, Spotify announced that AncestryDNA results could create a unique mix of music, inspired by your origins. In 2019, Airbnb teamed with 23andMe to facilitate ‘heritage travel’, whereby destinations of interest are pinpointed based on your ancestral data.
The researchers reported that the use of genetic data by marketers might create threats to consumer autonomy and privacy. They also worry that there is a potential for misinformation because consumers’ perceptions of genetics might lead them to believe that genetic-based recommendations are always backed by solid science, which might not always be the case. What is clear is that using genetic data presents broad ethical and legal challenges.
Not everyone reads the fine print when signing off on permission for a testing company to share data with other companies. Informed consent is another issue. A clinical trial participant signs off on exactly how personal data will be used, and if a new use for a test result comes along, new consent is required. That’s not the case for the general permission a consumer provides.
Privacy and DNA testing with AlphaBiolabs
AlphaBiolabs can reassure its clients that its DNA testing is 100% confidential and that data security is paramount. We password protect all data and only discuss any details of our DNA testing with those who are entitled to know (on receipt of correct passwords or answers to unique security questions). All of our reports are sent as a pdf file that require a password to open them. This password is picked by our client who instructs the test, which protects the report from being opened by anyone who doesn’t know the password.
We don’t sell on your data and limit access to it to those employees, agents, contractors and other third parties who have a business need to know. They will only process your personal data on our instructions and they are subject to a duty of confidentiality.
We also work hard to prevent your personal data from being disclosed or accessed in an unauthorized way by using a secure server that protects any financial transactions on our website. We also take appropriate physical, electronic and managerial measures to ensure that any data disclosed to us are kept secure. In addition, we adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation, which means that DNA samples are destroyed after 3 months and all identification documents (hard copy and electronic files) are destroyed after 12–18 months.
The use of consumer DNA data in microtargeting is here to stay, conclude the authors of the new paper. However, you can be reassured that when you choose AlphaBiolabs as your testing partner, you won’t be a victim of microtargeting as a result.
Further details on all of our DNA testing services can be found on AlphaBiolabs Website and our Frequently Asked Questions page. If you require further information, contact us via Live Chat or call now at 727-325-2902.
 Genetic Data: Potential Uses and Misuses in Marketing. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022242920980767