Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

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.


Original Submission

 
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @01:51PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @01:51PM (#928454)

    prosperity is the enemy of religion ...?

    Starting Score:    0  points
    Moderation   +1  
       Insightful=1, Total=1
    Extra 'Insightful' Modifier   0  

    Total Score:   1  
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @04:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 05 2019, @04:55PM (#928505)

    We've been saying this for decades. But look around! There aren't many countries that are wealthier, per capita than the US. But among them are Qatar (richest country in the world as well), Brunei, and Kuwait. Saudi Arabia is just a hair's breadth behind us as well. I don't understand why people cannot see that what's driving so many of the changes around the world, good and bad, is culture. China was mostly hyper-secular even when it was dirt poor. It's because they had a culture of secularity. Many mideastern nations have grown incredibly wealthy, and even have dramatically increased their educational attainment levels as well - still pretty the same old nutso hardcore Islam as before.

    The whole notion that education + wealth naturally trends towards liberalism + secularity is a pipedream.