Scary New 'Genetic App' Blocks Minorities & People With Autism From Using Sites

If you were excited about learning about your ancestors through the genetic information startup 23andme.com, you may want to hold on to your spit for now. A new program has found a creepy use for your genetic information that could shut you out of some websites.

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A program called Genetic Access Control came up with a way to use 23andme's database to allow web developers to open or close their sites to visitors based on their genetics.

This could be used to create safe spaces for certain groups of people. For example, you could create an online community just for women who are victims of abuse. They might feel safer knowing there's a super-tight security system keeping men out. 

But there's a flip side to this technology. What if someone wanted to discriminate against others based on their race, ethnicity -- or even if they were on the autism spectrum? Because of that darker possibility, 23andme shut down the app just two days after they launched it. 

More from The Stir: New Genetic Technology Means Parents Could 'Design' Their Ideal Baby Sooner Than You'd Think

So that's a relief, I guess. But who's to say there aren't other similar apps in development? Maybe there are apps like that in operation right now, but quietly? 

We love so many of the things access to genetics opens up for us. It's a gigantic leap for doctors -- and it's fascinating for individuals who want to understand themselves and their origins better. One of the great challenges of our age is managing that information carefully and making sure we balance our curiosity with solid ethics and responsibility.

 

Image via Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

 

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