Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Letter Re "Hacking the President's DNA," the Atlantic

While many of the scenarios described in the article "Hacking the President's DNA" were admitted fantasy, the underlying concerns are non-trivial. Obviously, the invasion of an individual's genomic privacy is much more likely than the design of custom-DNA weaponry; surprisingly however, even though issues in genomic privacy are relevant even today and even to non-presidents, many of us remain unaware of the threat. Accordingly, although politicians, celebrities and professional athletes are clear examples of public personalities that need to consider the detrimental effects of shedding DNA, we all have our own entourage of people interested in our genetic makeup, and who may go to considerable lengths to violate our genomic privacy. Most have life insurance providers that want to know how and when we will die; many may have biological children that were adopted out of their lives; some may have looming terminal diseases that they would otherwise like to keep hidden from their loved ones; and a minority may have suspected criminal relatives on the lam who may share enough DNA markers in the FBI's database to warrant being caught up in a genomic dragnet. In the end, we are all susceptible, not only to large governmental and non-governmental organizations intent on invading our genomic privacy, but also to a growing cadre of garage biohackers, some of whom may be as ethically oblivious as other garage-based denizens: black hat hackers and script kiddies.

Dov Greenbaum and Mark Gerstein

Unpublished letter in response to:
Hacking the President’s DNA