So many people have had their DNA sequenced, they’ve put other people’s privacy in jeopardy
| L.A. Times – Everyone’s DNA sequence is unique. But for those who wish to maintain their genetic privacy, it may not be unique enough.
A new study argues that more than half of Americans could be identified by name if all you had to start with was a sample of their DNA and a few basic facts, such as where they live and how about how old they might be.
It wouldn’t be simple, and it wouldn’t be cheap. But the fact that it has become doable will force all of us to rethink the meaning of privacy in the DNA age, experts said.
There is little time to waste.
The researchers behind the new study say that once 3 million Americans have uploaded their genomes to public genealogy websites, nearly everyone in the U.S. would be identifiable by their DNA alone and just a few additional clues.
More than 1 million Americans have already published their genetic information, and dozens more do so every day.
“People have been wondering how long it will be before you can use DNA to detect just about anybody,” said Ruth Dickover, director of the forensic science program at UC Davis who was not involved with the study. “The authors are saying it’s not going to take that long.”
This new reality represents the convergence of two long-standing trends.
One of them is the rise of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe can sequence anyone’s DNA for about $100.
All you have to do is provide a sample of saliva and drop it in the mail.
The other essential element is the proliferation of publicly searchable genealogy databases like GEDmatch.
Anyone can upload a full genome to these sites and powerful computers will crunch through it, looking for stretches of matching DNA sequences that can be used to build out a family tree. Read more.