Friday, 11 January 2013

We’re Watching You?

Genetic Database to Be Created in UK

Advocates expressed concerns over a £100 million project that will see DNA information of 100,000 cancer patients mapped out in a database. Big Brother Watch has called the plan “wholly wrong”. In the meanwhile, David Cameron promised that the plans will be worked on over the next 5 years to finally hold the genetic details of every UK citizen.

According to the Prime Minister, this move will push the boundaries of science and allow genetic sequencing by unlocking the power of DNA information. However, the UK’s genome plan has also raised some concerns that the information could be used to create commercial deals with such entities as drug firms. People also fear that people having access to the database might use the genetic codes in order to identify and track everyone on it, as well as their relatives.

The Prime Minister’s office also promised that the genome sequencing would be entirely voluntary and the patients will have a choice to opt out without affecting their NHS care.

While the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition has faced criticism that it’s dismantling the NHS to an outstanding extent, the Prime Minister said the £100 million funding will come from existing NHS budgets. This money will initially be spent on training scientists and creating secure systems to process the data.

According to privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, the NHS shouldn’t be treated as a government asset, but rather details of people’s illnesses, treatments and hugely personal data. They believe that if private companies want access to medical records, they should ask permission, because it is entirely wrong for this to be an opt-out scheme: everyone can see the implications for privacy. Apparently, assurances of anonymity have been demonstrated to be hollow in other states, so it’s just a matter of time before insurance or marketing companies try to make use of this information.

Despite the outfit has made assurances that the information would be absolutely anonymized before it’s stored, it warned that the government has to listen to a range of opinions, including patient and privacy outfits, in order to prevent policy being introduced just to appease large pharmaceutical firms. They aren’t sure that this policy has fully taken into consideration the real privacy concerns sharing large volumes of patient data entails.

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