We started Nebula Genomics with the mission to create a privacy-focused personal genomics company. Today we are excited to launch a new privacy-preserving feature – anonymous genetic testing. Nebula users will now be able to purchase whole-genome sequencing and submit their sample without having to reveal any information about themselves such as name, address or credit card number. Nebula Genomics is the first personal genomics company to offer anonymous genetic testing.
We empower our users to protect their privacy by enabling pseudo-anonymous payments and sample collection. This is enabled by the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Transactions with cryptocurrencies rely on blockchain addresses that can have no connection to real-life identities such as name, address or bank accounts. For users who do not own cryptocurrencies, we recommend using a prepaid credit card (e.g. privacy.com).
We complement anonymous payments with anonymous sample collection by delivering our saliva collection kits to USPS PO boxes. Additionally, we recommend using an email address that is not associated with any personal information and a VPN (virtual private network) during purchase and registration (Figure 1).
Anonymous genetic testing can eliminate several potential vulnerabilities individuals are exposed to when purchasing genetic testing services. Most importantly, enabling individuals to remain anonymous would eliminate the dependence on data de-identification by personal genomics companies prior to data sharing with researchers.
While purchases of genetic testing services can be effectively anonymized, genomic data itself cannot, since it contains unique, inheritable genetic markers. Thus, because genomic data anonymization alone is insufficient to protect privacy, genomic data sharing must occur in a controllable, transparent and privacy-preserving manner.
In an article published this week in Nature Biotechnology, we describe how various cryptographic techniques can be applied to make sharing of personal genomic data controllable, transparent and secure. We also call for other direct-to-consumer personal genomics companies to put their customers in control of their personal data in order to address prevalent privacy concerns that have become a barrier to wider adoption of genetic testing.
Nebula Genomics has already implemented a blockchain-based access control layer that enables transparent and controllable data sharing and we are currently developing approaches for secure data analysis.
Visit our website to learn more about anonymous genetic testing.