Anonymized genetic research data still carries privacy risks

John Timmer reports:

Up until recently, looking for the changes in DNA that contribute to human genetic diseases was a laborious process that involved tracking the changes through the generations of individual families. The completion of the human genome has changed all of that, allowing researchers to check for hundreds of thousands of individual DNA changes in large populations, and to identify those changes that are associated with specific genetic diseases—as the number of people genotyped grows, data sharing might be able to increase the statistical power of these experiments. But researchers are now cautioning that sharing the data might allow someone to learn about the people who contribute DNA samples to these studies.

The research involves a technique called a Genome-Wide Association Study, or GWAS.

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