Saturday, May 27, 2006

Welcome to Gattaca

Wow. According to a news story, republican New York mayor Bloomberg wants to keep DNA dibs on every single US worker. That idea is so bad on so many fronts, it's hard to know where to begin.

Your DNA information tells a lot about you. Your health, your ethnic background, insight into your genealogy, your life expectency... it gets kind of silly. Sure, the idea would be to prevent DNA from actually being examined outside of identification purposes wink wink nod nod, but we all know how likely that's going to continue (think several decades in the future when more terrorists have attacked, the nation gets more paranoid, and the US is struggling from an economical point of view so it does everything it can to remain competitive.)

Consider this scenario twenty years in the future: You apply for a job. You're required by law to give a DNA sample. The company gladly collects it and does a little research on its own before passing it on to the national bank. That DNA is analyzed, it's determined that you're likely to kick the bucket in three years, so they kindly tell you that they have filled the position. Meanwhile, they've passed on that information to their insurance affiliates, which then gladly blacklist you across a multi-company network. You finally land a burger-flipping job, and when you try to get even minimal health insurance, you're declined no matter where you apply. The police come knocking on your door when you check out a book at the library because your DNA matches an ethnic profile of the terrorist sect of the month. They harass you for a while, long enough for your landlord to find out that you're bad news. Your rent increases beyond your means, so you try to find a new place, but you're blacklisted on the apartment network as well. Finally, you succumb to moving back with your parents, but you can't find new job for months. A crazy activist raids an office that contains your DNA information and discovers that you're among the ethnic group that they're vehemently against for some reason. The activist calls his buddies up and you're six feet under the next day.

Think it won't happen? Think it's a little extreme? You're probably right... at least for the time being. But the US has given in to so many erosions of privacy that the DNA would be a gold mine, and little restraint will be demonstrated in the future to tap into this wealth of knowledge. It's a really bad idea. If you don't believe me, check out Gattaca. Great movie!

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