Your Face Could Be Recreated From DNA: Should You Worry?

Could we take a sample of your DNA and predict
what your face looks like? Maaaayyyyybe? Maybe. … Okay yes, but also not really. Craig Venter, a pioneer in human genetic research
and sequencing recently co-authored a paper saying if someone got your DNA, they could
use it to reveal your face. In the paper, they sequenced the genomes of
over a thousand people, and captured a bunch of metadata. They fed this into an algorithm. The program compared all the metadata to the
DNA, looking for small differences, and matching features. This paper argues we should be concerned about
storing DNA on publically accessible databases for the sake of privacy. They say, if compromised, someone could pick
out your face armed only with your DNA. Obviously, if true, this is pretty freaky. Especially when combined with another creepy
project from 2013. A New York artist took cigarette butts, hair,
and other discarded items, pulled DNA off of them, sequenced that DNA, and performed
facial reconstruction. The idea being, this face could be the person
who dropped the DNA. The artist told CNN, she could reveal possible
“ancestors…, gender, eye color, hair color, complexion, freckles, their tendency to be
overweight and a handful of dimensions of the face.” Put together, I’d understand if you’re
skeeved. This is a march toward GATTACA…Buuuut there
are still limitations. The artist says, these are “general likenesses,”
not portraits. And, Venter’s algorithm matched a diverse
group to their DNA 80-percent of the time, but only half the time when they were all
one ethnicity. Critics of Venter’s paper say the numbers
aren’t good enough to justify any concern, and one of the paper’s co-authors even said
it misrepresented their data. In the end, we only sequenced the human genome
in 2003, so there’s a lot to learn. Projects like these remind us of the sheer
amount of data we’re throwing away, every day, about ourselves, in stray hairs, skin
cells caught in lip prints, and so many other places. So, can we reconstruct your face? No. But soon we may be able to match it with an
algorithm, based on a hair you left in a subway station. Till then, more research and probably laws
are needed. After all that… you might be interested
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slash Seeker, and enter “Seeker” in the “How You’ve Heard About Us” section. If you enjoyed this video, take a second and
click that little but that says subscribe. It really helps us know you’re out there. And, if you want more Seeker videos, Crystal
explains how your DNA could keep you from your dream job if Congress gets what it wants. Watch it here. Are you worried about your DNA privacy? Let us know, and thanks for watching Seeker.


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