Reuters: Chinese army collects genetic data to create super soldiers
Georgy Golovanov, Hi-tech+
BGI Group, a Chinese manufacturer of popular genetic tests, offers pregnant women to take the NIFTY test, which can be purchased in 50 countries and which detects the presence of genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome. The company uses this information to help the PRC military improve the "quality of the population." U.S. government advisers warn that access to such a volume of data will make China a world leader in pharmaceuticals and lead to the creation of genetically enhanced soldiers.
According to Reuters, the company's database contains the results of more than 8 million tests.BGI denies all charges. Representatives of the company stated that they store and analyze blood samples and genetic data of prenatal tests only to search for abnormalities in fetal development. As the computer code check showed, NIFTY also allows you to get genetic information about the mother, as well as her personal data – the country of residence, height and age, but not the name.
Nevertheless, Reuters journalists found a connection between BGI and the defense industry: NIFTY data was analyzed on a military supercomputer – since 2010, the company has published a dozen studies together with the People's Liberation Army of China on the topic of training algorithms and improving the accuracy of testing.
Reuters found no evidence of a violation of the confidentiality agreement and laws by BGI. However, the NIFTY website says that the collected data can be transferred to other persons if it "directly concerns national security issues" of China.
Beijing made it clear at the time that it considers genetic data to be a matter of national security, and since 2015 has been restricting Western companies' access to the genetic data of Chinese citizens. However, BGI claims that "they have never received requests to transfer – and did not transfer – NIFTY test data to the Chinese authorities at the request of national security."
In Western journalism, the genre of articles that frighten readers with the machinations of Chinese companies stealing personal data for their secret purposes is popular. For example, last year the Chinese government was accused of using the TikTok app to spy on people. In fairness, it should be recognized that Western companies are doing this equally, but when the Chinese do it, it looks scarier and adds fuel to the fire of sinophobia.
In addition, genetic tests are a new business, the rules and laws of which have not yet been established, and it is impossible to be sure exactly that the most private data will not fall into the wrong hands. So, last year, a private company Blackstone acquired Ancestry.com , which had 18 million people in its database. Blackstone said it was not going to monetize this data, but bioethicists and human rights activists were skeptical of the statement. Meanwhile, the British government is busy collecting large-scale data on the medical history of every resident of the country.
The Reuters investigation, writes the Guardian, is a reminder that there is not a single aspect of life that anyone would not like to monetize and use. In some cases, it begins even before the birth of the child.
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