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Surprising Science

Carrying Your Genome On Your Smartphone

A California team is working on an app that will store an encrypted digitized copy of your genome. As expected, the technology comes with a host of privacy concerns.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

As the price of DNA sequencing continues to drop, it was inevitable that somebody would come up with a way to transport that data in a way that makes sense for an increasingly connected population. The Genodroid app, designed by a team at the University of California-Irvine and Xerox’s PARC lab, stores a user’s personal genome and encrypts it so that when a database needs to test part of it (for paternity, ancestry, or something similar), only the relevant sections are decrypted, keeping the rest of it private. The code has been made open-source so anyone can add on to it.

What’s the Big Idea?

Tailored medical services are one primary benefit of having individual genomic access, along with detailed information about conditions and diseases that may or may not be hereditary. Naturally, privacy is a huge concern, to the point where the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has asked for security standards specifically for genomic storage and transfer. The mere existence of software like Genodroid is cause for concern, according to one privacy expert: “This cryptographic platform risks creating a conduit of demand for universal genetic disclosure from, say, insurance companies we’d rather not give our data to.”

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