How does it work? For about $1,000 dollars you get a saliva collection kit which you complete and return to 23andMe. This returned saliva kit contains de facto, a sample of your DNA.
23andMe examine this DNA and return a report outlining your ancestry, you can compare your results with other, anonymised group data to see how prevalent your trait of reading Esquire on the toilet on Saturday mornings is (not really!) or just how likely you are to die of diabetes, heart attack, cancer, etc.
If all your family (parents, grand-parents, children, grand-children, etc.) submit their DNA, you can get a fascinating map of who inherited what traits from whom. At $1,000 a head you better have a big bank balance or a small family though (and hope that you are not in for nasty surprises like, oops, maybe that guy you called Dad all these years isn’t actually related to you at all!).
Now, I’m not a hugely private guy. I regularly publish photos of my family (including my two kids) on Flickr. I publish my contact details, including mobile phone number and email in the sidebar of this blog in plain text. I blog about deeply personal matters on this blog. In short, I’m quite an open guy.
I stop short though at the prospect of sending my DNA to a company to be analysed (never mind paying them $1,000 for the privilege).
This is not a matter of ignorance. I specialised in molecular biology in the final two years of my degree in plant science.
No, this is a matter of absolute unease with the idea of anyone having possession of analysed samples of my DNA – the most fundamental element of my being. Even if this service were free, I really can’t see myself using it. I’m not sure I can completely explain logically why but it is not for me.