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DNA Tracking and Genetic Privacy

As genetic information becomes more readily available, knowledge of an individual’s DNA is beginning to play a more important role in health and medical care. A full human genome can already be sequenced at a cost of less than $5,000, and the price is still dropping. However, the increasing availability of this information raises some serious privacy issues. With doctors and researchers exchanging the genetic information of patients, test subjects, and private clients, it has recently become possible to track people down using their DNA sequences and minimal outside information. A recent review in the journal Nature has examined the methods by which an interested party might cross-reference freely available databases to identify a name and home address based solely on a gene sequence and a date of birth. The authors were startled by how easy they found it to violate privacy in such a manner, and suggested a wide variety of encryption techniques to prevent third party access to exploitable information. Unfortunately, very few of these security protocols are in place, and for the time being, it seems that anyone with access to human genomes could track down their origins with little difficulty. 

~Andrew Wilson, Summer Research Intern

Source: http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v15/n6/full/nrg3723.html

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