March 30, 2006 10:56 AM PST

Google accused of biopiracy

A coalition has accused search giant Google of being the "biggest threat to genetic privacy" for its alleged plan to create a searchable database of genetic information.

Google was presented with an award as part of the Coalition Against Biopiracy's Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy in Curitiba, Brazil, this week. The organizers allege that Google's collaboration with genomic research institute J. Craig Venter--to create a searchable online database of all the genes on the planet--is a clear example of biopiracy.

Biopiracy refers to the "monopolization of genetic resources" according to the show's organizers. It is also defined as the unauthorized use of biological resources by organizations such as corporations, universities and governments.

According to the award's Web site, Google is guilty of biopiracy because plans for a searchable database could make it easier for private genetic information to be abused. "Google, in cooperation with Craig Venter, are developing plans to make all of our genomes Googlable to facilitate the brave new world of private genetically tailored medicines," the site claims.

Jim Thomas, from ETC Group, which is one of the organizers behind the awards ceremony, said that Google's recent moves around storing consumer information could land it in hot water with privacy campaigners of all kinds. "The new 'we want to store everyone's information online' mission statement is going to get very controversial if they extend that to genomic information. If Google thinks online privacy is a big can of worms, wait until they realize what they've opened up with the whole genetic privacy debate," he said.

The original source for the alleged collaboration between Google and Venter is "The Google Story," by Pulitzer Prize winner David Vise. However, Google has previously refused to comment on the issue, and Venter has denied any ongoing relationship. Google did not respond to requests for comment.

The search giant is keen to show that it is committed to contributing to areas outside of technology. Google recently appointed Larry Brilliant as executive director of Google.org to work with the company's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, to manage Google's charitable donations and philanthropic strategies.

Brilliant is a physician, epidemiologist and a specialist in international health. He played a key role in the World Health Organization campaign to eradicate smallpox and has also worked for the United Nations in the fields of blindness and polio eradication.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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14 comments

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Quacks Quacks Quacks
Stupid people with stupid-endous amount of free time coming up with non-issues.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
u dont get it
u just dont. how would you feel if someone posted your entire genome online? it would be like posting your entire medical record.
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
Link Flag
Quacks Quacks Quacks
Stupid people with stupid-endous amount of free time coming up with non-issues.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
u dont get it
u just dont. how would you feel if someone posted your entire genome online? it would be like posting your entire medical record.
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
Link Flag
What an opportunity
While I question the wisdom of giving intellectual property protection to the exact makeup of the double helix, we have an amazing opportunity here!

A) Accessible storage -- Google is not a search engine. That was just the first application on the world's biggest public database. If I get sick in Paris I may live if the doctor there can find out why my physician here already knows.

B) Privacy -- If anyone is going to trust private information on possible public access there has to be a whole new concept. A "Private" record that is above any law, any government, any technologist, is all that most of us will trust. The recent grab of search engine records, no matter how noble the cause, will escalate in months to allowing parking ticket disputes to access to my records.

Or we can continue to ignore both the immediate dire threat and the immediate opportunity.
Posted by TomMariner (762 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What an opportunity
While I question the wisdom of giving intellectual property protection to the exact makeup of the double helix, we have an amazing opportunity here!

A) Accessible storage -- Google is not a search engine. That was just the first application on the world's biggest public database. If I get sick in Paris I may live if the doctor there can find out why my physician here already knows.

B) Privacy -- If anyone is going to trust private information on possible public access there has to be a whole new concept. A "Private" record that is above any law, any government, any technologist, is all that most of us will trust. The recent grab of search engine records, no matter how noble the cause, will escalate in months to allowing parking ticket disputes to access to my records.

Or we can continue to ignore both the immediate dire threat and the immediate opportunity.
Posted by TomMariner (762 comments )
Reply Link Flag
biopiracy
First you have to know that Google is not at all concerned with privacy.
Why this is so significant is that if they can develope gene specific 'medicine' they call also develope gene specific 'illness'. So if one group of the people wants to 'white out' a whole entire gene pool they will be able to do so without risking their own. Brings the concept of genocide to a whole new level. Just imagine it. Hmmmmm - could it be a weapon of mass destruction?

If a doctor in Paris wants your medical info all he has to do is phone your doctor. Not that this is a particular wise thing to do given that the 3 largest cause of death in the U.S. are 'doctors'. This was recently reveal in the American Medical Associations Journal itself.

Dianne
Posted by emeraldgate (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
biopiracy
First you have to know that Google is not at all concerned with privacy.
Why this is so significant is that if they can develope gene specific 'medicine' they call also develope gene specific 'illness'. So if one group of the people wants to 'white out' a whole entire gene pool they will be able to do so without risking their own. Brings the concept of genocide to a whole new level. Just imagine it. Hmmmmm - could it be a weapon of mass destruction?

If a doctor in Paris wants your medical info all he has to do is phone your doctor. Not that this is a particular wise thing to do given that the 3 largest cause of death in the U.S. are 'doctors'. This was recently reveal in the American Medical Associations Journal itself.

Dianne
Posted by emeraldgate (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Partial search like for books. Needs to be licensed
There needs to be a Gene licensing scheme setup like with books and software where certain parts of your genes are protected from the likes of Google. Maybe a partial search or just a reference but not a total blackout like with closed source software. Someone could clone your voice and then trick your wife and kids, custom genetic torture for maximum effect through nanobots invading your body etc. Google's insistance on invasion of privacy before consultation is immature and scary if not downright evil. They should announce a search but have a department to make sure these searches are contracted and therefore protected before making such brash statements and acts.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Partial search like for books. Needs to be licensed
There needs to be a Gene licensing scheme setup like with books and software where certain parts of your genes are protected from the likes of Google. Maybe a partial search or just a reference but not a total blackout like with closed source software. Someone could clone your voice and then trick your wife and kids, custom genetic torture for maximum effect through nanobots invading your body etc. Google's insistance on invasion of privacy before consultation is immature and scary if not downright evil. They should announce a search but have a department to make sure these searches are contracted and therefore protected before making such brash statements and acts.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BIopiracy
Don't you think thats a little extreme?

Neal Safertein
Posted by nealsaferstein (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BIopiracy
Don't you think thats a little extreme?

Neal Safertein
Posted by nealsaferstein (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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