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Scientific Reports

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privacy, genomes, data sharing, potential benefits


Health Law and Policy | Law | Privacy Law


As recreational genomics continues to grow in its popularity, many people are afforded the opportunity to share their genomes in exchange for various services, including third-party interpretation (TPI) tools, to understand their predisposition to health problems and, based on genome similarity, to find extended family members. At the same time, these services have increasingly been reused by law enforcement to track down potential criminals through family members who disclose their genomic information. While it has been observed that many potential users shy away from such data sharing when they learn that their privacy cannot be assured, it remains unclear how potential users’ valuations of the service will affect a population’s behavior. In this paper, we present a game theoretic framework to model interdependent privacy challenges in genomic data sharing online. Through simulations, we find that in addition to the boundary cases when (1) no player and (2) every player joins, there exist pure-strategy Nash equilibria when a relatively small portion of players choose to join the genomic database. The result is consistent under different parametric settings. We further examine the stability of Nash equilibria and illustrate that the only equilibrium that is resistant to a random dropping of players is when all players join the genomic database. Finally, we show that when players consider the impact that their data sharing may have on their relatives, the only pure strategy Nash equilibria are when either no player or every player shares their genomic data.



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