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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday September 06 2017, @02:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the we-know-what-you-look-like dept.

Anonymity continues to die a little every day:

The physical traits predicted from genome sequence data may be sufficient to identify anonymous individuals in the absence of other information, according to a study set to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

After looking for links between physical phenotypes and whole-genome sequence data for more than 1,000 individuals from a range of ancestral groups, researchers from the US and Singapore took a crack at predicting biometric traits based on genetic data with the help of a newly developed algorithm. In a group of de-identified individuals, they reported, the algorithm made it possible to identify a significant proportion of individuals based on predictions of three-dimensional facial structure, ethnicity, height, weight, and other traits.

"By associating de-identified genomic data with phenotypic measurements of the contributor, this work challenges current conceptions of genomic privacy," senior author Craig Venter, of Human Longevity and the J. Craig Venter Institute, and his co-authors wrote. "It has significant ethical and legal implications on personal privacy, the adequacy of informed consent, the viability and value of de-identification of data, the potential for police profiling, and more."

[...] [Genome] sequences [...] are not currently protected as identifying data under the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's Safe Harbor method for ensuring anonymous and de-identified patient information.

Also at Bio-IT World, PRNewswire, and San Diego Union Tribune.

Previously: Creating Wanted Posters from DNA Samples

Related: EFF to Supreme Court: The Fourth Amendment Covers DNA Collection
Kuwait Creating Mandatory DNA Database of All Citizens, Residents--and Visitors
Massive DNA Collection Campaign in Xinjiang, China
Routine Whole Genome Sequencing: Not Scary?


Original Submission

Related Stories

EFF to Supreme Court: The Fourth Amendment Covers DNA Collection 14 comments

An EFF brief to Supreme Court argues that the 4th amendment also protect people against warrantless DNA analysis.

EFF is asking the Supreme Court to hear arguments in Raynor v. State of Maryland, a case that examines whether police should be allowed to collect and analyze "inadvertently shed" DNA without a warrant or consent, such as swabbing cells from a drinking glass or a chair. EFF argues that genetic material contains a vast amount of personal information that should receive the full protection of the Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"As human beings, we shed hundreds of thousands of skin and hair cells daily, with each cell containing information about who we are, where we come from, and who we will be," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch said. "The court must recognize that allowing police the limitless ability to collect and search genetic material will usher in a future where DNA may be collected from any person at any time, entered into and checked against DNA databases, and used to conduct pervasive surveillance."

Kuwait Creating Mandatory DNA Database of All Citizens, Residents--and Visitors 29 comments

Glyn Moody reports via TechDirt

Kuwait has the dubious honor of being the first nation to require everyone's DNA--including that of visitors to the country. The Kuwait Times has a frighteningly matter-of-fact article about the plan, which is currently being put into operation. Here's how the DNA will be gathered:

Collecting samples from citizens will be done by various mobile centers that will be moved according to a special plan amongst government establishments and bodies to collect samples from citizens in the offices they work in. In addition, fixed centers will be established at the interior ministry and citizen services centers to allow citizens [to] give samples while doing various transactions.

Those who are not citizens of Kuwait will be sampled when they apply for residence permits:

Collection will done on issuing or renewing residency visas through medical examinations done by the health ministry for new residency visas and through the criminal evidence department on renewing them.

As for common-or-garden[-variety] visitors to the country:

Collection will be done at a special center at Kuwait International Airport, where in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Department, airlines, and embassies, visitors will be advised on their rights and duties towards the DNA law.

[...] The DNA will not be used for medical purposes, such as checking for genetic markers of disease, which will avoid issues of whether people should be told about their predisposition to possibly serious illnesses. Nor will the DNA database be used for "lineage or genealogical reasons". That's an important point: a complete nation's DNA would throw up many unexpected paternity and maternity results, which could have massive negative effects on the families concerned. It's precisely those kinds of practical and ethical issues that advocates of wider DNA sampling and testing need to address, but rarely do.


Original Submission

Creating Wanted Posters from DNA Samples 16 comments

KOMO TV (Seattle) is carrying a story about unsolved "Cold Case" murders in Tacoma that occurred in 1986.

TACOMA, Wash. - Using cutting-edge technology not available until now, investigators have released composite sketches of two men suspected of abducting and killing two young Tacoma girls in 1986.

Police say they are determined to solve the two horrific murder cases, which have gone cold after three decades - and they are hopeful the new technology will help lead them to the killers.

There were no witnesses. But DNA samples were found. So how were the sketches made?

The "composite sketches" were generated by a computer based on a process called DNA Phenotyping which is the prediction of physical appearance, using information extracted from DNA which accurately predicts genetic ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape in individuals from any ethnic background, even individuals with mixed ancestry.

"These are composites much like a witness giving a description and a computer program making a sketch based on known appearance factors," Loretta Cool of the Tacoma police said in a prepared statement. "These composites will not be exact but the outcome is a visual reference that may look similar to what the suspects looked like in 1986."

The process was developed by Parabon Nanolabs and the process is explained on their web site.

How close are the predictions?

Parabon's website has some examples generated from DNA contributed by known volunteers. You can compare the sketches with photos of the volunteers and judge for yourself. Personally, I think Yolanda McClary's actual IMDB photo is virtually a dead ringer for the computer prediction.


Original Submission

Massive DNA Collection Campaign in Xinjiang, China 21 comments

Chinese police are amassing a huge amount of genetic information in Xinjiang:

Police in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, China, have been collecting DNA samples from citizens and are now ramping up their capacity to analyse that genetic cache, according to evidence compiled by activists and details gathered by Nature. The advocacy group Human Rights Watch reported last month that Xinjiang authorities intend to accelerate efforts to gather blood samples from the region's large population of Muslim Uighur people. China's government has cracked down on Xinjiang's separatist movement in recent years, so the prospect of a DNA database there has stoked fears that authorities could use it as a political weapon.

[...] In its report, the organization said that Xinjiang's police had ordered 12 DNA sequencers. Nature has confirmed the order and learned, from documents and interviews with those involved in the transaction, that the police have purchased enough machines to process up to 2,000 DNA samples per day. The police department hung up when Nature rang to ask about the reason for the purchase.

[...] Many countries use DNA fingerprinting to solve crimes, reunite kidnapped children with their parents and identify bodies, and some researchers say that the boost in Xinjiang's DNA-analysis capacity does not, by itself, stand out. "Expansion of police surveillance is expected by any civilized nation," says Sara Katsanis, who researches the applications of genetic testing at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Still, Katsanis and others worry about how DNA is being collected in China and especially in Xinjiang. Last year, Human Rights Watch reported that citizens in Xinjiang were required to give a blood sample to get a passport. And in March, Chinese state media detailed the conclusion of a 4-month programme during which 17.5 million people — who were predominantly Uighurs — were given health checks, including blood tests. Last week, reports emerged that many of the people who underwent these examinations had been forced to do so.

Previously:
China Bans Islam-Related Names in Xinjiang


Original Submission

Routine Whole Genome Sequencing: Not Scary? 19 comments

Don't be scared. It's just one little genome:

Advances in technology have made it much easier, faster and less expensive to do whole genome sequencing — to spell out all three billion letters in a person's genetic code. Falling costs have given rise to speculation that it could soon become a routine part of medical care, perhaps as routine as checking your blood pressure.

But will such tests, which can be done for as little as $1,000, prove useful, or needlessly scary?

The first closely-controlled study [DOI: 10.7326/M17-0188] [DX] aimed at answering that question suggests that doctors and their patients can handle the flood of information the tests would produce. The study was published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.

"We can actually do genome sequencing in normal, healthy individuals without adverse consequences — and actually with identification of some important findings," says Teri Manolio, director of the division of genomic medicine at the National Human Genome Institute, which funded the study. Manolio wrote an editorial [DOI: 10.7326/M17-1518] [DX] accompanying the paper.


Original Submission

Another Alleged Murderer Shaken Out of the Family Tree 23 comments

The Associated Press and the Everett Washington HeraldNet carry a story about a 30 year old double murder solved using Public Genealogy Sites similar to the Golden State Killer story carried here on SoylentNews.

Deaths of two Canadian visitors shopping in the Seattle area were unsolved since 1987.

The deaths remained a mystery for more than 30 years, until DNA led to a major breakthrough. A genealogist, CeCe Moore, worked with experts at Parabon NanoLabs to build a family tree for the suspect, based on the genetic evidence recovered from the crime scenes. They used data that had been uploaded by distant cousins to public genealogy websites. They pinpointed a suspect, Talbott, a trucker living north of Sea-Tac International Airport.

Police kept him under surveillance until a paper cup fell from his truck in Seattle in early May. A swab of DNA from the cup came back as a match to the evidence that had waited 30 years. Before then, Talbott had never been considered a suspect. Days later he was in handcuffs.

This time the police used Parabon NanoLabs (more well-known for generating facial models from mere samples of DNA) to build a family tree of the killer by submitting the 30 year old crime scene DNA samples to multiple genealogy sites.

Results from those sites were combined by a Parabon genealogist to map the family of distant cousins found in those data bases. Police were then able to narrow down the list using other methods unmentioned.

Neither article mentions if any family members were stalked by police while being eliminated as suspects, or whether any samples were submitted by other family members.


Original Submission

DNA Methylation Can Reveal Information About Criminal Suspects 6 comments

Crime scene DNA could be used to reveal a suspect's age—and whether they have cancer

A drop of blood left by a suspect at a crime scene is a treasure trove for forensic scientists. Genetic information extracted from such biological samples can be compared against DNA databases to see whether a sample's DNA sequence is a match for any known offenders, for example. To protect individuals' privacy, these analyses, known as DNA fingerprinting, are normally restricted to parts of the genome not involved in creating proteins. But in some countries, investigators hoping to narrow down their pool of suspects are allowed to identify certain protein-coding sequences that can help predict skin or eye color. And soon, scientists may be able to find out even more from an offender's DNA—including their age.

A new forensic approach analyzes the chemical tags attached to DNA, rather than genetic sequences themselves. These molecules, which can switch genes on and off, get added onto DNA throughout our life span in a process called DNA methylation. And because the patterns of DNA methylation change as we age, they could provide a good indication of how old a suspect is.

But this technique could inadvertently reveal a lot more about a suspect's health and lifestyle [DOI: 10.1016/j.tig.2018.03.006] [DX], raising tricky legal and ethical questions that may demand new privacy safeguards, scientists suggest in a commentary in the July issue of Trends in Genetics.

A brief interview with two of the authors is included in TFA.

Related: Better DNA Hair Analysis for Catching Criminals
Creating Wanted Posters from DNA Samples
The Problems With DNA Evidence
Study Predicts Appearance From Genome Sequence Data
GEDmatch: "What If It Was Called Police Genealogy?"
DNA Collected from Golden State Killer Suspect's Car, Leading to Arrest


Original Submission

Politics: DNA Databases in the U.S. and China are Tools of Racial Oppression 166 comments

DNA Databases in the U.S. and China Are Tools of Racial Oppression

Two major world powers, the United States and China, have both collected an enormous number of DNA samples from their citizens, the premise being that these samples will help solve crimes that might have otherwise gone unsolved. While DNA evidence can often be crucial when it comes to determining who committed a crime, researchers argue these DNA databases also pose a major threat to human rights.

In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a DNA database called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) that currently contains over 14 million DNA profiles. This database has a disproportionately high number of profiles of black men, because black Americans are arrested five times as much as white Americans. You don't even have to be convicted of a crime for law enforcement to take and store your DNA; you simply have to have been arrested as a suspect.

[...] As for China, a report that was published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in mid-June claims that China is operating the "world's largest police-run DNA database" as part of its powerful surveillance state. Chinese authorities have collected DNA samples from possibly as many as 70 million men since 2017, and the total database is believed to contain as many as 140 million profiles. The country hopes to collect DNA from all of its male citizens, as it argues men are most likely to commit crimes.

DNA is reportedly often collected during what are represented as free physicals, and it's also being collected from children at schools. There are reports of Chinese citizens being threatened with punishment by government officials if they refuse to give a DNA sample. Much of the DNA that's been collected has been from Uighur Muslims that have been oppressed by the Chinese government and infamously forced into concentration camps in the Xinjiang province.

Related:


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @02:40AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @02:40AM (#564017)

    This could get weird for "wanted" posters. They may generate some based on DNA alone.

  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Wednesday September 06 2017, @02:48AM (1 child)

    by looorg (578) on Wednesday September 06 2017, @02:48AM (#564019)

    This could be interesting, and scarey. I wonder if they can eventually do the reverse, show and image and the dna-code to produce the person on the image will be available; or at least the empty shell of a body.

    I recon there will be law enforcement aspects of this, there are probably some people already salivating at the mouth. Find something to extract DNA from and get an image of everyone that was at the scene (or everyone that had DNA planted at the scene). Wouldn't it just be easier to get a sample from everybody and just sequence that and then search that if you now have DNA and you want to find the person that it belongs to. After all I'm guessing the images produced will be lacking certain information, sure we can age images etc but what if say I have some cosmetic surgery or a giant hideous scar etc; those things won't show up in my DNA. So the images could be all wrong.
     

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @06:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @06:30AM (#564061)

      Get imprisoned for a crime, arrested in a protest, detained on the sidewalk or pulled over for a traffic infraction? You have to give us your DNA. It will let us boost the murder solve rate by 5%. We are doing this for your own good, citizen. We just want to keep you safe and sound.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @03:00AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @03:00AM (#564021)

    Another unrelated question, can you go GATTACA with this? Make the prettiest designer babies for modeling agencies.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday September 06 2017, @04:29AM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday September 06 2017, @04:29AM (#564033) Journal

      They probably need to refine the technique more. However, another approach would be to sequence the genomes of beauty queens, models, sex icons, and the like, and then analyze those genomes to investigate any similarities that could result in the desired traits. Of course, some would scream about cultural standards of beauty, unrealistic expectations, and racial bias. But if you are creating designer babies for the rich, you probably won't give a shit about all that because you are operating in a gray area outside of the long reach of the West, bankrolled by billionaires. Also, collecting more and more genomic data can help to counteract bias and deliver whatever the customers want.

      Yes, I foresee a bright and brave future for this area of bioengineering. Have it your way.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @09:09AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @09:09AM (#564086)

      Three things:

        - We're already engaging in Gattaca, but it's done with "good intentions" so people just kind of shrug and move on. With NASA's latest call for potential astronauts, there were 18,300 [nasa.gov] applications for what will be 14 astronauts. I can tell you, before the team is announced, that it will be half female with a strong minority representation. Imagine the selection process was completely blind with any indicators of race/sex stripped from all applications. Do you think the team would look the same? We're specifically restricting heavily qualified individuals because they do not fit certain genetic criteria. When we call it diversity, people seem okay with it.

        - Another issue Gattaca missed out on was what I mentioned above. There are 18,300 applications. Even if NASA genuinely wanted to try to find the most qualified individuals, they likely could not. Their current genetic biases do not favor merit, but serve the same purpose of limiting the pool of applicants. We're likely already at the stage where many applications are literally never even seen by a human. If a human spent just 1 minute per application that would be 305 hours or about 2 weeks of 24/7 work. They are certainly being algorithmically pruned for factors that those applying would have no way of knowing or working to improve. Adding a genetic criterion isn't exactly rocking the boat of the current system.

        - Finally, in spite of the hype designer babies are likely extremely far away - if they ever become a thing. Cybernetics and the like are so much more deterministic and, equivalently, well defined than tinkering with genetics we haven't even scratched the surface of. What's the gene for hair color? Trick question. There is none, at least that we know of. Instead it's a variety of different genes interacting in different ways that are in no way understood. For instance the gene for red hair and untanning pale skin are somehow seemingly linked. I can give a much fancier explanation than 'somehow', but 'somehow' is the accurate phrasing. Intellectual posturing aside, genetics is based exclusively on correlations of a system for which we have 0 causal understanding of. Try creating a "designer" computer by randomly soldering circuits, with no real clue what they actually are responsible, for on a regular computer. Far from a "designer machine", you're more like to simply break what you're working on or, at best, end up with a Frankenstein caliber invention. And the human genome is many orders of magnitudes more complex than that. It's not even out of the question that we currently lack the technology to view genomic data on the right granularity. In other words, we might not even be looking at circuits - but instead only able to measure the heat emanating from various parts of our computer. The seemingly neverending explosion of the Standard Model would lend more than a little credence to this possibility.

      • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Wednesday September 06 2017, @06:07PM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Wednesday September 06 2017, @06:07PM (#564214) Journal

        You find it odd that 50% of the population would make up 50% of the team?

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @04:09AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @04:09AM (#564030)

    Since race and ethnicities and other things are all just social constructs. I read it on reddit.

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday September 06 2017, @04:34AM

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday September 06 2017, @04:34AM (#564035) Journal

    Added more links since the article I used is now asking for a login.

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    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @05:05AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06 2017, @05:05AM (#564039)

    Use the *exact same* model to predict things on data you collect after publication (eg, this year), then publish again. I didn't read the paper but assume they didn't do this simple thing.

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