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Google ".biggest threat to privacy." in Genetics DB Plan

 3:39 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Search giant Google has been accused of being the "biggest threat to genetic privacy" for its alleged plan to create a searchable database of genetic information.




 4:28 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

In computer magazines, newspaper, there is a lot about googles privacy policy and all the information they grab from from people that use any google tool or search.

Personaly I also think they are going over the line now, maybe they just use it for advertising stuff, but its just to much now.


 4:50 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Is it just me or is this a _complete_ non-story.

What's next, will PETA denounce Google as "the biggest threat to animals" to bolster interest in their next hoopla event?

From what I read of that story there isn't any definate proof of anything. Just a lot of conjecture and supposition based on the general thought that Google wants everything in the word searchable through them.

JMHO, of course I've been wrong before.


 4:53 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

biggest threat to genetic privacy

I didn't know that genes had privacy rights.

So I have read the article and I learned some new terms/words

Genetic Privacy


monopolisation of genetic resources

Those are some good words, I wonder who came up with them.

Not sure why this is a concern for some. I don't see the harm in being able to look up the genes of the tulip, or the tazmanian devil. The scientist they are collborating with has done some real good for the planet. Erradicating pollio, smallpox, blindness.

What are they worried about protecting? How is this over the line? In countries with a low standard of education it would be nice for those without the books but with the drive to teach themselves using this data.


 4:59 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I don't see the harm in being able to look up the genes of the tulip, or the tazmanian devil.

I don't think anyone does.

The issue is with human DNA. I'm OK with my doctor having my DNA information; I'm not so OK for it to be online and available to insurers, employers etc.


 5:07 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

A very large amount of insurance companies already have this information. Depending on the type of policy--and monetary value--they require you to give a blood sample. They wouldn't want to give life insurance to a crack addict...


 5:32 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

But does having the genetic makeup of everything on the planet = DNA lookups of individulas?

Do you know many people there are on this planet? It would take so long to get a sample of every person's DNA. By the time you collected half the data the other half would be dead and there would be another billion new souls to index. I can't see them getting that data. Plus I didn't see that mentioned in the artcle, even though that is the "Big Brother" thought process that people are worried about.

I think it is more likely that they will have the genetic makeup of a human, a bear, a rose. Not the exact DNA sequence of every human, every bear, every rose.


 5:38 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Havast Ye BioPirates!

Lets hope Google invoke the right to parle before being blamed for piracy!

It appears to me that any looney who wants to get into the spotlight only has to accuse Google of something (however outragous) and they get their 15 minutes of fame.

I really cannot see how Google are going to find my genetic information and plaster it all over the web. Even if they did - would I really care?

Access to the information is not a problem for me. If someone chooses to abuse that information then we need safegaurds to prevent the abuses not prevent the access to the information which could be used for good.


 8:09 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

How many bytes does it take to store one human's genetic makeup? What's the storage requirements for 6 billion people?

Just curious... :)


 10:34 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

This thing has been going on for a while.

If you notice, the award was issued in Brasil (Curitiba).

There has been talk and pressure from third world countries (Brasil has been one of the most outspoken on this) to somehow recognize the rights of these countries to the future exploitation of products derived of plants and animals within their territory.

They explain that, for them to have an incentive to protect rainforests and "bio-diversity", they should have some rights to the future benefits derived from this.

The next miracle drug could be in the bark of a rare tree in the Amazon basin, or in a near extinct frog in Africa.

When the developed world just takes a sample of these plants and animals and maps the entire genome, this "biological asset" goes down the drain.

It has happened before. Patents have been awarded for products and applications for plants and animals, which later prevent those countries from reaping benefits.

The developed world just moves too fast for them.

The data is being collected and managed. Google would make this process easier and faster.


 11:06 am on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

But does having the genetic makeup of everything on the planet = DNA lookups of individulas?

It does.... unless you specifically state that it will not. Which has - studiously - not been stated.

By the time you collected half the data the other half would be dead and there would be another billion new souls to index.

Has Google crawled and indexed every single webpage that's in existence as of this second? With DNA the concentration will be first on the more profitable ones - people in the developed world whose DNA profiles can be added to ACORN classifications for corporate use in marketing, cost discriminations, employment "research" and a range of other - sometimes nefarious - uses. The DNA of that kid in a remote part of Africa who was born with HIV and died 3 days later is not something anyone will bother too much with. The bottom line will be money. If not now then later.

Not the exact DNA sequence of every human, every bear, every rose.

They'd like you to think that. "Private genetically-tailored medicines" can't be tailored to your genes based on the DNA sequence extracted from an unknown, unrelated, third party human somewhere else in the world.


 2:41 pm on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have experience with genetics and there are a number of fishy things about this article. Maybe it's poor wording by the article's writer, but some things here just don't sound right or make sense at all. Let's walk through them:

Biopiracy refers to the "monopolisation of genetic resources" according to the show's organisers

"Genetic resources" either refers to DNA or, more likely, the information it codes for (ATGC). In the latter case, having Google make genetic information public would in no way consitute monopolization.

"Google, in cooperation with Craig Venter, are developing plans to make all of our genomes Googlable to facilitate the brave new world of private genetically-tailored medicines," the site claims.

How do they think making genetic information public would lead to private genetically-tailored medicines? These people are trying to attack Google on two contradictory fronts, (1) that Google risks the privacy of the individual and (2) that Google will result in the privation of genetic studies.

So Google is partnering up with J. Craig Venter. This man is almost universally disliked in the scientific community for coming up with a more efficient gene mapping technique, whole-genome shotgunning, and trying to sell it to pharmaceutical companies so that they could get the jump on researchers from less evil corporations. But he couldn't patent the technique, so now everyone has it. By contrast, his partnership with Google to make this data publicly available seems charitable.

The real threat to the future of genomics is genes being copywritten by corporations, not genetic information being released to the public. And, contrary to this article's claim, if Google places genetic information in the public domain it will be harder for corporations to copyright them. Yes, having one's own genome released to the public would be a pretty big violation of privacy, but it's highly unlikely this will happen to anybody anytime soon. It took years to map just one human genome, and this was done in hundreds of different labs and using the DNA from several individuals. The only realistic danger Google poses in serving up genetic information is to the big corporations, namely pharmaceuticals, that would like to patent them.


 3:25 pm on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Will google provide some sort of an opt out option?

Something like "no-index" "no-follow" "no-cache" gen_robots.txt microchip implanted under our skin.

I wounder what spammers would do to get to the top of the serps when you look up the gens DB? hijack?

LOL, sorry couldn't resist.

[edited by: Web_speed at 3:27 pm (utc) on Mar. 31, 2006]


 3:27 pm on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

unless you specifically state that it will not

So because the didn't say they won't, then they must be? Not sure how that makes sense. They also didn't say they they would bring me ice cream today. Does that mean they will?


 4:09 pm on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

The real threat to the future of genomics is genes being copywritten by corporations

Yes I find that amazing, considering Helen Lane's family didn't get a penny for her immortal cell line.

Like I don't own my own code, but anyone else can.

Thanks for clearing stuff up Inuwolf. I wondered about Venter.


 1:10 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

According to the award's Web site, Google is guilty of biopiracy because plans for a searchable database could make it easier for private genetic information to be abused.

Thank gawd these people aren't lawyers. Last time I checked, it's not a crime to "plan" a database.

I'm planning on speeding on the way home tonight. Hurry up and arrest me before I commit the actual crime. Good grief.

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