This company wants to make your DNA untraceable

This company wants to make your DNA untraceable

By Kwame Opam on May 2, 2014 10:00 pm Email @kwameopam30COMMENTS

As the scope of the NSA’s bulk surveillance program becomes all too clear, less attention has been paid to the issues surrounding genetic information and surveillance. BioGenFutures, a new company-cum-art-project launched by information artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, hopes to bring DNA surveillance back to the fore. The company just announced a product it calls “Invisible,” which endeavors to make it harder for authorities to trace left-behind DNA evidence back to people. Not only is the product actually launching to consumers, but Dewey-Hagborg believes solutions of its kind will be commonplace within five years.

Back in 2012, Dewey-Hagborg premiered “Stranger Visions” at New York City’s Eyebeam lab. At the time, that project focused on how the physical traces we leave behind in everyday spaces — saliva, skin, and hair follicles — can becomes liabilities if regulations aren’t put in place to restrict how that genetic data is mined. “I was just really disturbed but also preoccupied by this emerging possibility of genetic surveillance,” she told The Verge. “It just struck me that we were having a national dialogue about electronic surveillance, but this form of biological surveillance isn’t being discussed.” “Invisible” expands on that work by imagining a future wherein discrimination based on genetics is an everyday fear.

“Invisible” comes with two sprays, both of which can be combined to keep your identity safe from those sifting for it. The first, “Erase,” is essentially a lab cleaning agent that can allegedly destroy 99.5 percent of trace materials. The second, “Replace,” covers up the remaining .5 percent with DNA material from other sources. Dewey-Hagborg calls it high security in spray form.

“DON’T LET THEM JUDGE YOU BASED ON YOUR DNA.”

Of course, the work itself is knowingly informed by art, and draws on theatrical hyperbole in illustrating the quasi-dystopian future that could conceivably call for ways to erase traces of your DNA. For example, one section of the site cheekily reads, “Dinner with the prospective in-laws going smoothly? Don’t let them judge you based on your DNA, be invisible.” Nonetheless, Dewey-Hagborg cites the passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) in 2008 and the more recent case of the NYPD trying and failing to link Occupy Wall Street activists to a murder using DNA evidence in 2012 as examples of the powers-that-be taking more assured steps into genetics and reasons for why citizens should have the choice to make their DNA harder to track.

BioGenFutures will release “Invisible” to the market sometime this June, after which Dewey-Hagborg and her company will test out how consumers feel about the idea. “I think, basically, this is just the beginning,” she says. “This is my first prototype. These issues will only continue to emerge and become a part of our everyday lives.”

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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