Thousands of Icelanders Take deCODE’s Personality Test

deCODE

Over 60,000 Icelanders have participated in an online personality test distributed by deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company based in Reykjavík. Many participants chose to share their test results on social media, which has subsequently raised data-privacy concerns.

Thousands of Participants

On February 13, two days after the biopharmaceutical company deCODE made its personality test available online, RÚV reported that nearly 50,000 Icelanders had taken the test.

The test, which was approved by the Ethical Review Committee, aims to examine the effect of genetic variation on personality traits and how such personality traits relate to physical health. In consenting to the terms of the test, participants authorise deCODE to request medical information from other health institutions (those who have not provided deCODE with a biological specimen in the past, the terms state, will be invited to do so).

In an interview with RÚV last weekend, Kári shed light on the research project by explaining that the concept of Personality wasn’t clearly defined, but that it was considered an interplay of thought, behaviour, and temperament. “Upon taking a personality test, participants fall within specific groups, which relate differently to certain illnesses … we’re trying to understand how genetic variation relates to a group of individuals who share certain personality traits.”

Upon completing the test, participants can compare their results to the results of other participants, with regard to openness, emotional stability, extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Many chose to share their results on social media.

Privacy Concerns

Although Kári maintains that the information gathered from the test will remain anonymous and will not be sold to third parties – as such a thing would be illegal – many have nonetheless expressed privacy-related concerns, referencing a similar test employed by Cambridge Analytica in the run-up the 2016 US presidential election and Brexit referendum.

According to deCODE’s website, participants’ answers will be deleted from the server in two weeks’ time, but after that time, results will still be available online. “Complete confidentiality is guaranteed, and researchers are bound to secrecy regarding the information provided.”

In an interview on Monday, Helga Þórisdóttir, CEO of the Data Protection Authority, encouraged a level of scepticism regarding the provision of valuable personal information to deCODE. Referring to the fact that many participants had shared their results on Facebook, Helga stated: “Participants must be cautious; they shouldn’t be sharing this information on Facebook” (Helga also questioned deCODE’s choice of presenting a scientific survey as a personality test).

Responding to such criticism on Monday, Kári Stefánsson stated that individuals participating in similar deCODE tests in the future would not be able to share their results social media.

New Apartments Either Too Big or Too Pricey, Report Suggests

iceland real estate

In an interview with RÚV, Landsbanki economist Ari Skúlason states that residential apartments have been constructed that, despite warning signs, buyers do not want or cannot afford. As noted in a recent report by the Iceland Housing and Construction Authority (Húsnæðis- og mannvirkjastofnun), the upshot of such construction is that new apartments take roughly twice as long to sell than older apartments.

Slow sales for new apartments

A recent report by the Iceland Housing and Construction Authority notes that the housing market in the Greater Reykjavík Area in 2019 was mostly stable. Three of every four apartments were sold for less than the asking price, whereas only 6-7% went for more (most often in zip codes 103 and 108, and in Kópavogur and Garðabær).

The report makes special mention of average sales time, i.e. how long, on average, it takes to sell an apartment.

It took on average 87 days for homeowners to sell apartments in the Greater Reykjavík Area in 2019 (which is comparable to previous years), as compared to an average of 176 days for new residential apartments. If only the last three months of 2019 are taken into account, it took on average 217 days for new apartments to be sold.

A shortage of smaller, simpler apartments

The report suggests that either the market is not fulfilling the needs of buyers or prices are driving them away. Ari Skúlason, an economist with the Landsbanki bank, believes both to be true. “I think it’s evident that during the past few years we’ve seen residential apartments constructed that are too big and that people don’t want. We also need smaller, simpler apartments. The writing has been on the wall for many years, and yet we have seen a great deal of energy invested in the construction of apartments that people do not want and, perhaps, cannot afford to buy.

Discounts in select neighbourhoods

As noted in his interview with RÚV, Ari does not expect prices for new residential apartments to drop: price stagnation is more likely. “It could be possible, in certain neighbourhoods, like in central Reykjavík, that homeowners will need to offer a discount to sell their apartments.”

The report also notes that 3,400 new apartments were put on the market in Iceland last year, the greatest increase since 2008 when 3,700 apartments were added to the Icelandic market.