2018/10/11: "On the genetic level, you shouldn't expect much privacy, and decisions about your privacy are being made by your family (probably without consulting you)."
Earlier this year, news broke that police had devised an unexpected new method to crack cold cases. Rather than use a suspect's DNA to identify them, data from the DNA was used to search public repositories and identify an alleged killer's family members. From there, a bit of family tree building led to a limited number of suspects and the eventual identification of the person who was charged with the Golden State killings. In the months that followed, more than a dozen other cases were reported to have been solved in the same manner.
The potential for this sort of analysis had been identified by biologists as early as 2014, but they viewed it as a privacy risk—there was potential for personal information from research subjects to leak out to the public via their DNA sequences. Now, a US-Israeli team of researchers has gone through and quantified the chances of someone being identified through public genealogy data. If you live in the US and are of European descent, odds are 60 percent that you can be identified via information that your relatives have made public.
2013/03/07: A warning about the accuracy of the tests was made by the Sense About Science campaign group, which said "such histories are either so general as to be personally meaningless or they are just speculation from thin evidence."
The warning was backed by a number of leading genetics experts. Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics at UCL said: “On a long trudge through history – two parents, four great-grandparents, and so on – very soon everyone runs out of ancestors and has to share them.
"As a result, almost every Briton is a descendant of Viking hordes, Roman legions, African migrants, Indian Brahmins, or anyone else they fancy.”
His colleague Prof Mark Thomas said: "These claims are usually planted by the companies that provide these so-called tests and are not backed up by published scientific research. This is business, and the business is genetic astrology.”
Neither the Golden State Killer nor Buckskin Girl had a genetic profile in the archive used to identify them. That didn't matter.
2017/06/28: Using this algorithm, we have reidentified an average of > 8 of 10 held-out individuals in an ethnically mixed cohort and an average of 5 of either 10 African Americans or 10 Europeans. This work challenges current conceptions of personal privacy and may have far-reaching ethical and legal implications
We now have the power to easily alter DNA. It could eliminate disease. It could get really out of hand.
As the number of big biology project increases, the amount of data that scientists need to handle will grow at an alarming rate. While nearly all fields are struggling with Big Data, the biological and neurological sciences have their own particular challenges, which we explore in this feature.
Illegal logging is a major contributor to tropical deforestation and forest degradation. Australia is currently considering legislation to prevent the importation of illegally logged wood. But if the legislation