The Times reports today (£) that Britain’s future king Prince William has Indian DNA. It’s an intriguing story, but there are a couple of things about its presentation which are peculiar. Not to say troubling.
They were spotted immediately by Alex Hern, a New Statesman blogger and an ex-science editor of The Times, Mark Henderson. Given that this story is linked to a special offer on DNA analysis available to Times+ subscribers, which came first – the offer or the story? Linking the two undermines the credibility and prominent positioning of the story. The firm behind the offer (BritainsDNA) features with suspicious prominence in the narrative.
A second, wider question is begged: given how easy it is to get DNA and to analyse it, can any of this data be considered private? Some of the questions are explored here. I can see that The Times might well argue that the DNA of an heir to the throne is a matter of public interest: the accompanying editorial (£) simply takes that for granted before going on to argue for the benefits of DNA testing for medical and general knowledge. But to pretend that there is no ethical issue at all insults the intelligence of the paper’s readers.