DNA Databases Contain Privacy Loopholes That Could Change Everything

Nature.com reported today that there is a loophole in privacy policies of DNA databases used for research. In other words, the databases, used for public and private research, though supposed to contain anonymous members, can in actuality be used to reveal identities of individual participants.

As a response to the findings, parts of the data associated with individuals has been removed, but many say that removal of information is only a tip of a much greater, legislative issue that will require addressing, and that may have long-term repercussions not only for research, but DNA databases and privacy in general. “I don’t think removing data from the public domain is any kind of answer,” says computational biologist Eric Schadt at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, “we should be up front with participants that we can’t protect their privacy completely, and we should ensure that the most appropriate legislation is in place to protect participants from being exploited in any way.”

Research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have proven that one can deduce and confirm the identity of individuals, based on cross-referencing available DNA data and publicly available data, making the essential anonymity elusive for the participants.

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