Public opinion about the importance of privacy in biobank research

Am J Hum Genet. 2009 Nov;85(5):643-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2009.10.002. Epub 2009 Oct 29.


Concerns about privacy may deter people from participating in genetic research. Recruitment and retention of biobank participants requires understanding the nature and magnitude of these concerns. Potential participants in a proposed biobank were asked about their willingness to participate, their privacy concerns, informed consent, and data sharing. A representative survey of 4659 U.S. adults was conducted. Ninety percent of respondents would be concerned about privacy, 56% would be concerned about researchers having their information, and 37% would worry that study data could be used against them. However, 60% would participate in the biobank if asked. Nearly half (48%) would prefer to provide consent once for all research approved by an oversight panel, whereas 42% would prefer to provide consent for each project separately. Although 92% would allow academic researchers to use study data, 80% and 75%, respectively, would grant access to government and industry researchers. Concern about privacy was related to lower willingness to participate only when respondents were told that they would receive $50 for participation and would not receive individual research results back. Among respondents who were told that they would receive $200 or individual research results, privacy concerns were not related to willingness. Survey respondents valued both privacy and participation in biomedical research. Despite pervasive privacy concerns, 60% would participate in a biobank. Assuring research participants that their privacy will be protected to the best of researchers' abilities may increase participants' acceptance of consent for broad research uses of biobank data by a wide range of researchers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biological Specimen Banks / ethics*
  • Biomedical Research / ethics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Privacy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Public Opinion*
  • Young Adult