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Forum Post: Genetic Testing of Citizens Is a Backdoor Into Total Population Surveillance by Governments and Companies

Posted 4 months ago on June 6, 2014, 6:27 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5853)
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Genetic Testing of Citizens Is a Backdoor Into Total Population Surveillance by Governments and Companies

Friday, 06 June 2014 10:36
By Helen Wallace, Independent Science News/GeneWatch UK | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/24184-genetic-testing-of-citizens-is-a-backdoor-into-total-population-surveillance-by-governments-and-companies

The new Chief Executive of the National Health Service (NHS) in England, Simon Stevens, was recently reported arguing that the NHS must be transformed to make people’s personal genetic information the basis of their treatments (1).

His proposition is unsurprising since it is in line with the efforts of successive UK governments to build a DNA database in the NHS in England by stealth. In particular, sequencing every baby at birth and storing whole genomes in electronic medical records is a plan backed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (2). The current version of this plan would involve sharing whole or partial DNA sequences (genomes or genotypes) with companies like Google, which would use genetic information and health data to calculate personal risk assessments for feedback to patients (3). Massive investment from taxpayers would be required as part of a public-private partnership that would allow commercial exploitation of the data.

Building a DNA database within the NHS would be a massive waste of public money. But it would also create a system of total surveillance which would enable the government and private companies to track every individual, not to mention their relatives. This is not speculation; as wikileaks revealed, the United States government is already actively collecting DNA samples and biometric data on foreign officials and populations.

Commercial companies wish to exploit genetic information to market products such as drugs and supplements to healthy people, based on genetic risk assessments. If current trends continue, this will harm, not benefit, health: it is personalised marketing not personalised medicine. The potential for misuse is very high. Doctors could be replaced by computer algorithms used to market medication, massively expanding the drug market to include large numbers of healthy people, rather than smaller numbers of (often poorer) people who are sick. There is also the danger that prescribing would be driven by vested interests, rather than medical need: with high financial costs and more harmful side effects. Genetic risk assessments could also be misused, leading to stigma or discrimination, for example by insurers.

Why Does the NHS Want to Collect Genetic Information?

There is one element of truth to Simon Stevens’ remarks. Some cancer drugs have been successfully tailored to genetic mutations that arise in the cancer tumour. However, attempts to select drugs for people based on the genetic make-up they are born with (their genome or genotype) have largely been a failure. This is because genetic differences only account for a part of individual differences in metabolism. For example, a recent study found that targeting warfarin treatment based on genetic make-up did not improve health outcomes, although this application was regarded as the ‘poster child’ of this approach (4).

Why did it not work? An important misconception, apparently shared by Simon Stevens, is that genes are good predictors of most diseases and adverse drug reactions in most people. However, contrary to misleading claims made to promote the Human Genome Project, this is not true (5). Moreover, even if it were true, there is no evidence that genetic selection of individuals, for example into high risk and low risk groups, improves outcomes or cuts costs. All of which begs the question of the purpose of taking and storing genetic information as a default medical procedure.

The online gene testing company 23andMe, funded by Google, has been forced to withdraw its gene tests from the US market due to failure to prove they can reliably predict individual risks of many common conditions using computer algorithms. The company now wants to target the UK market, where genetic testing is not regulated (6). Patrick Chung, a 23andMe board member and partner at the venture-capital firm NEA told Fast Company (7): "…23andMe will make money by partnering with countries that rely on a single-payer health system. “Let’s say you genotype everyone in Canada or the United Kingdom or Abu Dhabi,” he says, “and the government is able to identify those segments of the population that are most at risk for heart disease or breast cancer or Parkinson’s. You can target them with preventative messages, make sure they’re examined more frequently, and in the end live healthier lives, and the government will save massive expenses because they halted someone who’s prediabetic from getting diabetes. 23andMe has been in discussion with a bunch of such societies." Yet there is not a scrap of evidence that this approach is good for health. This is because genomic tests have limited clinical validity or utility; so in reality there is no health benefit to targeting segments of the population in this way.

Genetic testing remains useful to diagnose rare genetic disorders, mainly in babies and young children, and whole genome sequencing has helped to identify new mutations causing these diseases. Rare familial (largely inherited) forms of many common diseases also exist, including breast cancer, but these account for only a small percentage of cases of these conditions.

Use of genetic testing in the NHS should focus on prioritising resources for the limited applications that do work, not on introducing misleading and harmful screening of the whole population and creating unnecessary, expensive databases. Certainly it should not be driven by ulterior commercial and government interests.

References

(1) New NHS boss: service must become world leader in personalised medicine. The Guardian. 4th June 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/04/nhs-boss-world-leader-personalised-medicine

(2) Children could have DNA tested at birth. The Telegraph. 8th December 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10501788/Children-could-have-DNA-tested-at-birth.html

(3) GeneWatch UK PR: GeneWatch UK report exposes plans to build a DNA database by stealth in the NHS. 23rdMay 2013. http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=569352&als[itemid]=572536

(4) Pharmacogenomic Warfarin Dosing: Worth the Cost? Medscape. 23rd December 2013. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818088

(5) Human Genetic Predispositions – the hidden politics of genomic science. Bioscience Resource Project. http://www.bioscienceresource.org/resources/human-genetic-predisposition/

(6) Gene startup 23andme casts eyes abroad after U.S. regulatory hurdle. Reuters. 6th May 2014. http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/05/07/23andme-genetictesting-idINL2N0NT05I20140507

(7) Inside 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki’s $99 DNA Revolution. Fast Company. 14th October 2013. http://www.fastcompany.com/3018598/for-99-this-ceo-can-tell-you-what-might-kill-you-inside-23andme-founder-anne-wojcickis-dna-r

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5853) 4 months ago

Why Online Tracking Is Getting Creepier

Friday, 13 June 2014 10:19
By Julia Angwin, ProPublica | Report

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24334-why-online-tracking-is-getting-creepier

The marketers that follow you around the web are getting nosier.

Currently, many companies track where users go on the Web—often through cookies—in order to display customized ads. That's why if you look at a pair of shoes on one site, ads for those shoes may follow you around the Web.

But online marketers are increasingly seeking to track users offline, as well, by collecting data about people's offline habits—such as recent purchases, where you live, how many kids you have, and what kind of car you drive.

Here's how it works, according to some revealing marketing literature we came across from digital marketing firm LiveRamp: A retailer—let's call it The Pricey Store—collects the e-mail addresses of its high-spending customers. (Ever wonder why stores keep bugging you for your email at the checkout counter these days?) The Pricey Store brings the list to LiveRamp, which locates the customers online when the customers use their email address to log into a website that has a relationship with LiveRamp. (The identity of these websites is a closely guarded secret.) The website that has a relationship with LiveRamp then allows LiveRamp to "tag" the customers' computer with a tracker. When those high-spending customers arrive at PriceyStore.com, they see a version of the site customized to "show more expensive offerings to them." (Yes, the marketing documents really say that.)

Tracking people using their real names—often called "onboarding"—is a hot trend in Silicon Valley. In 2012, ProPublica documented how political campaigns used onboarding to bombard voters with ads based on their party affiliation and donor history. Since then, Twitter and Facebook have both started offering onboarding services allowing advertisers to find their customers online.

"The marriage of online and offline is the ad targeting of the last 10 years on steroids," said Scott Howe, chief executive of broker firm Acxiom at a conference earlier this year.

Last month, Acxiom—one of the country's largest data brokers, which claims to have 3,000 data points on nearly every U.S. consumer—agreed to pay $310 million to purchase onboarding specialist LiveRamp. Acxiom and LiveRamp declined to comment for this article, citing the need to remain quiet until the acquisition is complete.

Companies that match users online and offline identities generally emphasize that the data is still anonymous because users' actual names aren't included in the cookie.

But critics worry about the implications of allowing data brokers to profile every person who is connected to the Internet. In May, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report that found that data brokers collected information on sensitive categories such as whether an individual is pregnant, has a "diabetes interest," is interested in a "Bible Lifestyle" or is "likely to seek a [credit-card] chargeback."

Previously, data brokers primarily sold this data to marketers who sent direct mail—aka "junk mail"—to your home. Now, they have found a new market: online marketing that can be targeted as precisely as junk mail.

"Will these classifications mean that some consumers will only be shown advertisements for subprime loans while others will see ads for credit cards?" Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said at a press conference. "Will some be routinely shunted to inferior customer service?"

The FTC has called for Congress to pass legislation requiring data brokers to allow consumers to access their information and to opt out of targeted marketing. Currently, many data brokers don't offer people either one.

The Direct Marketing Association, which represents the data broker industry, doesn't offer a specific opt-out for onboarding. It does offer a global opt-out from all of its members' direct mail databases, but it only requires members to remove people's data for three years after they opt-out.

Some companies offer their own opt-outs. Twitter allows users to opt out of onboarding by unchecking the "promoted content" button in their account settings. LiveRamp offers a so-called " permanent opt-out" for users who do not want to be targeted via their e-mail address.

Facebook does not offer a specific opt-out for onboarding. Instead, it suggests users opt out of the data brokers themselves. A Facebook spokesman says that users who don't like specific targeted ads can avoid seeing them again by clicking an 'x' on the top right corner of the ad and following the links to the advertisers' opt-out page.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5853) 4 months ago

Does Snowden Know Why the NSA Doesn't Need Warrants? He Might.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014 10:21
By Peter Van Buren, Truthout | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24234-does-snowden-know-why-the-nsa-doesnt-need-warrants-he-might

A funny thing to come out of Snowden's recent interview with NBC News was his claim that he raised concerns about the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance of US citizens through channels at the NSA, well before he began disclosing classified documents to journalists like Glenn Greenwald.

For almost a year, the NSA denied any record of Snowden speaking up, though located a single such email only following the recent television interview. It gets complicated, and very interesting, from that point.

Snowden's Email to the NSA

The email the NSA disclosed showed Snowden asked a fairly simple legal question arising from an NSA training session that outlined various legal authorities, from the US Constitution on down.

"I'm not entirely certain, but this does not seem correct, as it seems to imply Executive Orders have the same precedence as law," Snowden wrote, citing a hierarchy of governing authorities referenced during the training. "My understanding is that E.O.s [Executive Orders] may be superseded by federal statute, but E.O.s may not override statute. Am I incorrect in this? Between E.O.s and laws, which have precedence?"

"Hello Ed," came the reply from an NSA lawyer. "Executive orders . . . have the 'force and effect of law.' That said, you are correct that E.O.s cannot override a statute."

What the Email Means

Based on the NSA training he was given, Snowden was questioning which carries more weight within the NSA - an actual law passed by Congress, or an order from the president (an E.O., or executive order). The answer was a bit curvy, saying that absent a specific law to the contrary, an order from the president has the force of a law.

By way of a trite illustration, if Congress passed a law requiring Snowden to eat tuna every day for lunch in the NSA canteen, he'd have to do that, even if the president ordered him to have the tomato soup instead. However, absent a law specifically telling him what to eat, the president's order meant he would have to eat soup. Of course, if Congress did not even know of the president's order, it could not pass a law countering it.

Back to 2006

Hold on to the Snowden question for a moment and let's go back to 2006.

In 2006 we knew very, very little about what the NSA was doing, and knew even less about the scope and scale of their surveillance of Americans. That context is important.

General Michael Hayden, then head of the NSA, gave a talk in January 2006 at the National Press Club. Journalist Jonathan Landay started a back-and-forth with Hayden over the wording and meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Most media outlets played the story as a mockery of Hayden, claiming he did not even know what the Fourth said. MSNBC quipped, "Well, maybe they have a different Constitution over there at the NSA."

Let's take another look at the exchange, with a few parts highlighted:

LANDAY: I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use -

HAYDEN: No, actually - the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

LANDAY: But the -

HAYDEN: That's what it says.

LANDAY: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

LANDAY: But does it not say probable -

HAYDEN: No. The amendment says -

LANDAY: The court standard, the legal standard -

HAYDEN: - unreasonable search and seizure.

LANDAY: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause."

And so what many people believe - and I'd like you to respond to this - is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place of probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief; you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear - and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me - and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one - what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe - I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5853) 4 months ago

Reasonable Searches Versus Warranted Searches

The full text of the Fourth Amendment is as follows, broken into two parts for our purposes here:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,

AND

no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The reporter questioning Hayden, and most everyone else, wrongly conflates "unreasonable" with "unwarranted," claiming that the only reasonable search is one done under a warrant. That is not true.

Cops search people and cars all the time, legally, without warrants. The same thing happens at the border with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and others. The New York Police Department has its infamous stop and frisk practice.

There are libraries of case law on this, and yes, courts have generally - but not always - claimed that the same probable cause required to obtain a search warrant is an implied part of a "reasonable" search.

One Supreme Court case of interest is Vernonia Sch. Dist. 47J v. Acton. The case involved a student's refusal to submit to drug testing as a condition of playing high school sports. But take a look at the clarity of precedent in the court's opinion (emphasis added):

Where a search is undertaken by law enforcement officials to discover evidence of criminal wrongdoing, this Court has said that reasonableness generally requires the obtaining of a judicial warrant. Warrants cannot be issued, of course, without the showing of probable cause required by the Warrant Clause. But a warrant is not required to establish the reasonableness of all government searches; and when a warrant is not required (and the Warrant Clause therefore not applicable), probable cause is not invariably required either. A search unsupported by probable cause can be constitutional, we have said, "when special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement, make the warrant and probable cause requirement impracticable."

What Hayden Knew, Part I

As head of the NSA, Hayden was not an emotional man, one prone to off-the-cuff remarks, or an imprecision of language. Standing in front of the press in 2006, Hayden knew in great detail the vast scope and scale of surveillance of Americans his agency was carrying out at that very moment, even if his audience did not. Hayden had also been around Washington a long time, and knew political will fades, and winds change. He was not about to implicate himself in a violation of the constitution in front of a room full of journalists.

Hayden parsed the Fourth Amendment to maintain that under some legal opinions, a government search could be both "reasonable" and unwarranted and still be constitutional. Hayden also clearly referred to "the authorization," said, "I am responding to a lawful order" and added that "the attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order." He ended by saying "I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable."

What Hayden Knew, Part II

The law, the statute Snowden asked about in his 2013 email to the NSA lawyer, as passed by Congress was clear: under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), government officials have to prove to the secret intelligence court that there was "probable cause" to believe that a person was tied to terrorism to obtain a search warrant. Warrants, FISA or otherwise, still require probable cause, precisely as the Fourth Amendment states.

But what if, standing there in 2006, guessing some or all of his NSA's work would someday become public, Hayden knew he was covered for all the searches he was doing without warrants if he just chose his words very carefully. What if Hayden had an executive order from the president in his office safe, a secret legal memo, similar to the memos we now know of by John Yoo that explained how torture was not torture, or the one by David Barron explaining how the president ordering the drone killing of an American was not a violation of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. Perhaps in that executive order, Hayden had laid out the legal argument that the NSA's electronic surveillance of every American constituted a "reasonable" search under the Fourth Amendment. Reasonable searches do not require warrants. The Fourth prohibits only "unreasonable searches." All the push and shove over unwarranted searches was just a smokescreen, a distraction for the public. It was all legal without a warrant anyway.

At that point everything Hayden said - that what the NSA was doing was lawful because it was reasonable - makes chilling sense.

What Snowden Knows

Edward Snowden and the journalists working with his materials are smart cats. Over the past year they have had a curious knack for releasing a document, watching the president lie about it ("we don't read Americans' emails") and then releasing another document exposing the lie.

Does Snowden know of, or strongly suspect, there is a secret executive order legalizing everything the NSA is doing by claiming the searches are "reasonable," and thus no warrant is needed to conduct them on a mass scale? Did something in his NSA training hint at that, and, through his email inquiry asking about the relative strength of an executive order versus a law (in the case, the FISA law requiring probable cause for warrants to be issued), was Snowden trying to tease that out of the NSA lawyer he wrote to?

Ask Obama This Question

So let's make it simple: Journalists with access to the president, ask this question directly: Is there an executive order or other document stating that the NSA's surveillance of US citizens is "reasonable," and thus no warrant is required for the surveillance to continue and remain constitutional under the Fourth Amendment?

Yes or no, Mr. President. Edward Snowden and the rest of us would like to know.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 0 points by wickerman (62) 4 months ago

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/North-Texas-Drivers-Stopped-at-Roadblock-Asked-for-Saliva-Blood-232438621.html

I keep hearing about these, anyone know if there is any truth to the rumors?

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 months ago

genetic testing is not advanced and simply enough to examine everyone

[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 months ago

i see you

you see me

let's get paranoid

about the government secret killings