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posted by janrinok on Wednesday December 04 2019, @11:32PM   Printer-friendly

Submitted via IRC for chromas

China Uses DNA to Map Faces, With Help From the West

With a million or more ethnic Uighurs and others from predominantly Muslim minority groups swept up in detentions across Xinjiang, officials in Tumxuk have gathered blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs — part of a mass DNA collection effort dogged by questions about consent and how the data will be used.

In Tumxuk, at least, there is a partial answer: Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person's face.

The technology, which is also being developed in the United States and elsewhere, is in the early stages of development and can produce rough pictures good enough only to narrow a manhunt or perhaps eliminate suspects. But given the crackdown in Xinjiang, experts on ethics in science worry that China is building a tool that could be used to justify and intensify racial profiling and other state discrimination against Uighurs.

In the long term, experts say, it may even be possible for the Communist government to feed images produced from a DNA sample into the mass surveillance and facial recognition systems that it is building, tightening its grip on society by improving its ability to track dissidents and protesters as well as criminals.

Some of this research is taking place in labs run by China's Ministry of Public Security, and at least two Chinese scientists working with the ministry on the technology have received funding from respected institutions in Europe. International scientific journals have published their findings without examining the origin of the DNA used in the studies or vetting the ethical questions raised by collecting such samples in Xinjiang.

[...]Sketching someone's face based solely on a DNA sample sounds like science fiction. It isn't.

The process is called DNA phenotyping. Scientists use it to analyze genes for traits like skin color, eye color and ancestry. A handful of companies and scientists are trying to perfect the science to create facial images sharp and accurate enough to identify criminals and victims.

The Maryland police used it last year to identify a murder victim. In 2015, the police in North Carolina arrested a man on two counts of murder after crime-scene DNA indicated the killer had fair skin, brown or hazel eyes, dark hair, and little evidence of freckling. The man pleaded guilty.

Despite such examples, experts widely question phenotyping's effectiveness. Currently, it often produces facial images that are too smooth or indistinct to look like the face being replicated. DNA cannot indicate other factors that determine how people look, such as age or weight. DNA can reveal gender and ancestry, but the technology can be hit or miss when it comes to generating an image as specific as a face.

Phenotyping also raises ethical issues, said Pilar Ossorio, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The police could use it to round up large numbers of people who resemble a suspect, or use it to target ethnic groups. And the technology raises fundamental issues of consent from those who never wanted to be in a database to begin with.

"What the Chinese government is doing should be a warning to everybody who kind of goes along happily thinking, 'How could anyone be worried about these technologies?'" Dr. Ossorio said.


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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @01:36PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @01:36PM (#928447)

    It's in my opinion, about the 72. A Muslim who dies in Jihad is guaranteed a ticket to heaven. And 72 virgins as well as 80,000 servants are described as but the smallest of gifts awaiting him.

    Take all of our Twittertards who love to find outrage at everything because their lives are pretty much empty, meaningless, and boring otherwise. And now imagine you started convincing them that if they went Aloha Snackbar and killed some random people, and died in the act of it, that they'd have their very fantasy and desire fulfilled for all of eternity. Suddenly the spectacle of upper middle class whities running around blowing themselves up would make the entire country light up like the 4th of July. This is also why it's generally so easy to bait Muslims into violence with things like a draw Muhammad day or burning a Quran. There are a decent number that would love to die in defense of the religion.

    This is also the reason that when you see a Muslim decide to go Aloha Snackbar he will do everything to ensure he dies in the process of it. For instance fake suicide vests are becoming quite common. And there's no doubt that a big motivation there is to try to ensure that they're killed in the act of Snackbarring. For instance the London Bridge stabber probably put on an Oscar Worthy performance to ensure he got some lead in the head, even though he was already fully detained and restrained.

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  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday December 05 2019, @05:51PM (1 child)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday December 05 2019, @05:51PM (#928528) Journal

    Take all of our Twittertards who love to find outrage at everything because their lives are pretty much empty, meaningless, and boring otherwise. And now imagine you started convincing them that if they went Aloha Snackbar and killed some random people, and died in the act of it, that they'd have their very fantasy and desire fulfilled for all of eternity.

    I don't need to imagine it:

    Right-Wingers Are America’s Deadliest Terrorists [slate.com]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @07:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @07:06PM (#928554)

      Two things there.

      Most data like that are intentionally flubbed pretty hard. This is no exception. Fortunately the site is kind enough to link to their source. Here [newamerica.org] it is. "Far right wing terrorism" includes:

        - some bikers killing a guy and hiding his body
        - some guys killing a guard during a bank robbery
        - 2 police killed during a bank robbery
        - a couple of guys decided to go kill a sex offender
        - guy killed another guy at a gun range to steal his gun
        - etc etc

      Some of the acts were done in pursuit of what could have ended up as terrorism. For instance the guy who stole the gun at the gun range claimed he belonged to some secret society and they were going to overthrow the government with his new gun. But the murder itself was obviously not terrorism by any stretch of the imagination. In general their definition of "far right wing terrorism" seems to lack any self consistency, let alone any consistency with any normal definition of terrorism.

      Outside of intentional data flubbing, it's also statistical butchery. Muslims make up 1% of Americans. All other things being equal, they should be responsible for 1% of attacks. If they've finally hit parity with America, at large, then that means 1% of people being responsible for as much death as 99% of people. So they, as a group, are only 9900% more likely to murder somebody in an act of terrorism than the rest of society. Yay...?