In Uncle Sam, You’ve Got a Friend… Who Wants Everybody’s DNA

by on December 1, 2010 · 0 comments

In the latest WikiLeaks data dump, around a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables were published online. “Cablegate,” as it is being called, has revealed some rather startling information. Among the tech-relevant secrets, the State Department tasked agents to collect DNA and other biometric information on foreigners of interest.

Specifically, U.S. officials were told that in addition to collecting “email addresses, telephone and fax numbers,” they should also snap up “fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and Iris scans.” This directive makes the recent TSA scandal over airport full body scanners seem like child’s play.

Wired joked that this would explain to foreign leaders why the “chief of mission seemed a bit too friendly at the last embassy party.”

Jokes aside, access to DNA information is potentially one of the most important privacy issues of the future.

In a world in which DNA sequencing is becoming exponentially faster and cheaper, it won’t be long before it is possible to sequence everyone’s genomes for medical purposes. Possession of an individual’s DNA blueprint will be useful in fighting disease and in personalizing drugs and other therapies. Of course, as with any technology, DNA sequencing can be used for either good or evil purposes, so it will need to be used wisely.

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Read the rest of my column here.

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