Open Window: When Easily Identifiable Genomes and Traits Are in the Public Domain
“One can't be of an enquiring and experimental nature, and still be very sensible.”
- Charles Fort 
As the costs of personal genetic testing “self-quantification” fall, publicly accessible databases housing people's genotypic and phenotypic information are gradually increasing in number and scope. The latest entrant is openSNP, which allows participants to upload their personal genetic/genomic and self-reported phenotypic data. I believe the emergence of such open repositories of human biological data is a natural reflection of inquisitive and digitally literate people's desires to make genomic and phenotypic information more easily available to a community beyond the research establishment. Such unfettered databases hold the promise of contributing mightily to science, science education and medicine. That said, in an age of increasingly widespread governmental and corporate surveillance, we would do well to be mindful that genomic DNA is uniquely identifying. Participants in open biological databases are engaged in a real-time experiment whose outcome is unknown.
Citation: Angrist M (2014) Open Window: When Easily Identifiable Genomes and Traits Are in the Public Domain. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92060. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092060
Editor: Tricia A. Thornton-Wells, Vanderbilt University, United States of America
Received: January 31, 2014; Accepted: February 14, 2014; Published: March 19, 2014
Copyright: © 2014 Misha Angrist. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: This work was supported in part by NIH grant 5P50-HG003391-07. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The author is an unpaid member of the personalgenomes.org Board of Directors, which oversees the Personal Genome Project. MA has uploaded my SNP data to openSNP.org but confess that he has yet to do much with it.
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