How US experts helped China build a DNA surveillance state

How US experts helped China build a DNA surveillance state

China has been leaning on American know-how to build a sprawling surveillance program in Xinjiang province, according to the New York Times

Crack down: Chinese authorities have created “a vast Chinese campaign of surveillance and oppression” targeting Uighurs, an ethnic minority who are mostly muslims and live in the northwestern province. A comprehensive DNA database is part of the plan to keep the restive group under control.

American role: Scientists working with Chinese police have been using equipment from Thermo Fisher, a supplier of biotechnology tools in Massachusetts. They also shared genetic survey data with Kenneth Kidd, a geneticist at Yale University.

The genetic data was being used to be able to determine, from a blood sample, if someone had Uighur ancestry. Chinese scientists even filed a patent on the idea.

Backlash: Thermo Fisher’s role in China has been known for some time, thanks to reports by Human Rights Watch. In November, US senator Marco Rubio called out the company in a tweet for “making lots of $ helping #Xinjiang authorities conduct mass detention…” 

But the company seems only to have buckled because of scrutiny from the Times. According to the paper, Thermo Fisher announced on February 20 that it would stop sales of its equipment in Xinjiang. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Not just in China: The issue of genetic privacy is also of concern in the US, where some commercial databases of genetic information are being used by police to identify rapists and murderers. In theory, these tools could also be employed for ethnic profiling.

via Technology Review Feed – Tech Review Top Stories

February 21, 2019 at 01:55PM

About peterjang73

A nerdy father of two, a husband of a beautiful and understanding wife, an engineer who loves anime and tinkering with PCs and games, but most of all, loves God.
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