DNA databases: biology stripped bare
may 2018 by jm
dna-matching dna data-privacy privacy future health cancer insurance karlin-lillington
Unlike other biometrics, [DNA] also provides revealing [data regarding] thousands of other related individuals; even to an entire ethnic group.
Such markers may reveal a genetic predisposition towards cancer, or early onset dementia. Mining that data and linking it to family trees and thus, individuals, might interest insurance companies, or state health bodies, or – as ever – advertisers. Or? Who knows?
And the ability of a third-party potentially to reveal such information about me, about you, without us having any say, by providing their DNA profile for some personal purpose? Consider how furious so many have been on the basis of their Facebook profile data going to Cambridge Analytica via some Facebook friend deciding to do a quiz.
Facebook profile data is revealing enough. But DNA is you, fully, irrevocably, exposed. And whatever it displays about you right now, is trivial compared to what we will be able to read into it in the future.
That’s why this case isn’t just about a solitary law enforcement outcome, but about all of us doing an unintended, genetic full monty.
may 2018 by jm
The brave new world of genetic genealogy - MIT Technology Review
april 2018 by jm
gedmatch genealogy dna police murder rape dna-matching privacy data-privacy
The combination of DNA and genealogy is a potentially a huge force for good in the world, but it must be used responsibly. In all cases where public databases like GEDmatch are used, the potential for good must be balanced against the potential for harm. In cases involving adoptee searches, missing persons, and unidentified bodies, the potential for good usually markedly outweighs the potential for harm.
But the situation is not so clear-cut when it comes to the use of the methodology to identify suspects in rape and murder cases. The potential for harm is much higher under these circumstances, because of the risk of misuse, misapplication or misinterpretation of the data leading to wrongful identification of suspects. The stakes are too high for the GEDmatch database to be used by the police without oversight by a court of law.
However, we are not looking at a dystopian future. In the long run the public sharing of DNA data, when done responsibly, is likely to have huge benefits for society. If a criminal can be caught not by his own DNA but through a match with one of his cousins he will be less likely to commit a crime in the first place. With the move to whole genome sequencing in forensic cases in the future, it will be possible to make better use of genetic genealogy methods and databases to identify missing people, the remains of soldiers from World War One and World War Two as well as more recent wars, and casualties from natural and manmade disasters. We will be able to give many more unidentified people the dignity of their identity in death. But we each control our own DNA and we should all be able to decide what, if anything, we wish to share.
april 2018 by jm
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