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Ups and Downs

DNA sequencing has the potential to help guide cancer therapies and stave off diseases like diabetes, writes Emma Keller at the Guardian. At the same time, she says, the data it produces could be abused. "As we clamor about the loss of our privacy in the age of the internet and NSA eavesdropping, it's worth considering another aspect of public record keeping," she says. "Whose medical privacy is worth losing for your improved health or for the improved health of society?"

Keller adds that there are pilot projects underway in the US and the UK to screen the genomes of newborns and adults to look for disease risk. In a perfect world, she says, such risks would not used against people, but people and privacy experts fear how knowing such risks could affect insurance coverage, especially in the US.

Still, she says the potential benefits are great. "[T]o focus solely on the privacy concerns of individual genome sequencing is to miss the point," Keller adds. "DNA sequencing is here to stay. For the first time ever, we are looking at the chance to cure major diseases, possibly before they take hold."