DNA fingerprinting is “old” stuff, going back to the 1980ies (watch the clip). What is new is the amount of DNA now available in several “accessible” data bases. People are having fun in looking at their sequenced genome, through companies like 23andMe, Ancestry and others. Actually, sequencing the genome has become a nice Christmas present, its price is going down and the number of people sequencing their genome is increasing exponentially. Most of these genomes are kept private but more and more people choose to making their genome available on open data bases, like Ged Match.
Now, the fact that people may choose to share their genomes has nothing to do with me or you. If we decide not to share we are off the loop. Right? Wrong.
A nice article on Wired shows how using these publicly available genomes it is getting easier to track your relatives by detecting similarities and given that we are all genetically connected it is now most likely that some of your relatives to the 3rd/4th/5th grade are present in such data bases and by using a little trace of your DNA (that you have left on a glass, on the surface of a table basically anywhere….) it is possible to establish the connection. Once you have that connection it is a matter of cross referencing other (publicly) available data to identify you.
In a new research just published on Science more than 60% of Americans with a European root can be identified today using open genetic genealogy data bases and it would take, statistically, just 2% of American having their genome sequenced and made available on an open web site to be able to identify the remaining 98% within a day. 2% of US Americans with an European ancestry means 4 million people. Today over 1,2 million of them have already had their genome sequenced and their number is growing fast. By early in the next decade this can become a “fait accompli”.
There are already several web services offering the possibility to find people and to harvest tremendous quantity of (supposedly) private information just by mining the web. We can expect their number to increase as well as the breath of information they will be able to provide. And I am talking about “legal” data retrieval, accessing social networks and the like. Governments and not so legal organisations can do much more.
Say bye-bye to privacy and put the blame on technology and on you that every single day are willing to open up your private information. Are you placing one picture of you on the web (like Instagram)? Well you should be aware that by doing that you are immediately providing a way to software to search for you (your face) in billion of other photos being published by other people most of which you don’t even know. And once a software has found your face in another photo it is a piece of cake to place you at a particular location at a particular time, discover the people you are likely to know, and … well anything.