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May 4, 2015

Facebook hasn’t always been known to be fair and ethical, yet I’ve recently heard of a way they’re using their immense power for good – not evil – and possibly helping to build a huge database of well, human data. Facebook is serving as the distribution platform for the Genes for Good app. Users can now trade their data and DNA to University of Michigan researchers in exchange for a peek at your genealogy.

No need to talk to racist Grandpa to explore your roots. Genes for Good lets you learn about your genetic ancestry, estimate the proportion of Neanderthal DNA in your genotype and receive your raw genetic data for free — and it all starts on Facebook. The Genes for Good App gives you a platform o take surveys and track your health (e.g. sleep habits, diet, personality, mental health history). And don’t worry. Facebook can only see when you’re using the app, not your responses. Because of the social element, you can compare your results to other participants with graphs, charts and plotting tools. It actually visualizes the data — which is yours to download, by the way.

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It’s pretty damn genius. According to their website, “We use Facebook because of its vast existing social network. If someone likes Genes for Good, they can tell their (Facebook) friends.” Unlike those bots spamming your inbox with male enhancement offers, there online casino is a human behind each digital interaction. When things go really big, they jump from cyberspace to, well, regular space. From there, nothing works like word of mouth.

And that’s exactly how it went. I heard it from fellow content creator, Maddie, who heard about it on Twitter (another social platform, duh). Now I’m just waiting for my spit kit to come in the mail. Fingers crossed I have Neanderthal blood!

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But anyway, what’s the catch?

There is none. Unless you really oppose medical research and the general goodwill of humanity. Because with all this data from its 5,700 users, Genes for Good analyzes its enormous database to work toward cures for common genetic diseases. It also gives the smarties at Michigan insight into how genetics affect our environment and daily lives. “We think that finding these connections will help us and others develop better medicine and better treatments and understand disease,” University of Michigan researcher Goncalo Abecasis told WWJ Health Reporter Dr. Deanna Lites.

The truly interactive app launched January 19 of this year but will constantly evolve. Developers are currently developing a demo app (if you want to test it out before joining the study, which you should totally do). After so many social media blunders from brands and individuals alike, Genes for Good restores hope for this new media’s potential. We’re excited to see what becomes of the study and, of course, whatever the hell runs in my blood. As for their handle on other social channels, their Twitter presence, @genesforgood, is not up to par with the app itself…maybe someone can help them out (wink, wink).

All in all, we have a new scientific view of Facebook: The place to keep tabs on your high school’s prom season, that weirdo who somehow has a fiancee, and yes, your genetics.

About the Author

Paige Montes

In spring 2014, Paige joined the team as a Junior Blaster Content Creator. When she’s not at ChatterBlast, find Paige posting ridiculous quotes from her boyfriend and feminist jokes only her best friend will retweet.

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