How DNA Databases Violate Everyone's Privacy

If you’re an American of European descent, there’s a 60% chance you can be uniquely identified by public information in DNA databases. This is not information that you have made public; this is information your relatives have made public.

Research paper:

“Identity inference of genomic data using long-range familial searches.”

Abstract: Consumer genomics databases have reached the scale of millions of individuals. Recently, law enforcement authorities have exploited some of these databases to identify suspects via distant familial relatives. Using genomic data of 1.28 million individuals tested with consumer genomics, we investigated the power of this technique. We project that about 60% of the searches for individuals of European-descent will result in a third cousin or closer match, which can allow their identification using demographic identifiers. Moreover, the technique could implicate nearly any US-individual of European-descent in the near future. We demonstrate that the technique can also identify research participants of a public sequencing project. Based on these results, we propose a potential mitigation strategy and policy implications to human subject research.

A good news article.

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 9:34 AM45 Comments


Frankly October 15, 2018 9:54 AM

Facebook has knowledge of non-facebook members by means of members. DNA databases have knowledge of persons who did not submit their DNA. It is essentially the same problem. We are all connected to one another. Insecurity for anyone is insecurity for everyone.

Me October 15, 2018 10:06 AM

This is part of why I cautioned my mom about getting a genetic test (for fun, not medical). I told her that the results would not only reduce her privacy, but those of all her descendants.

echo October 15, 2018 10:13 AM

A revolution in genomics is creeping into economics. It allows us to say something we might have suspected, but could never confirm: money trumps genes.

Using one new, genome-based measure, economists found genetic endowments are distributed almost equally among children in low-income and high-income families. Success is not.

The least-gifted children of high-income parents graduate from college at higher rates than the most-gifted children of low-income parents.

The solution to a lot of problems seems to be be born with richer relatives.

Peter S. Shenkin October 15, 2018 10:36 AM

I have thousands (yes, thousands) of 3rd-to-fourth cousins on Ancestry, very few of whom are real. (Then again I’m Jewish, so, more than for most people, this is the result of endogamy: a large number of distant ancestors from a small founding population; but still, it’s an issue for many individuals of other ethnicities.)

It is well known that security is the enemy of usability, and even usefulness. Loss of privacy in the abstract is difficult for me to see as a problem. I gladly give up my privacy on , in the hope of finding distant relatives and tracing my ancestry.; I keep my family tree public, allow myself to be identified to others as a DNA match, and use my real name. This has been a large benefit to me. On Facebook, whatever privacy I sacrifice is worth it to me for the sake of being able to keep up with friends all over the world, some of whom I would not have been able to dig up had they and I not been on Facebook.

I have yet, personally, to suffer any evil consequences from these alleged trade-offs. So far, the dark side is completely empty. And, by the way, as a word of comfort to those on the right, nobody has knocked on my door to try to take away my guns.

vas pup October 15, 2018 11:07 AM

Genetics not working by itself. Environment(good rich parents)working through epigenetics i.e. in order good genes turned on (being dormant in both poor and rich kids)circumstances should be favorable. That is what @echo pointed to in her post. But take a look at Chinese kids. ‘Tiger mom’ force them to be smart having even less good genetic but proper environment: combination of math, science and music education force balance development of left and right brain which has huge plasticity in response to environment.
@Shenkin: could you imagine what genetics could do in Nazi Germany? Genetic test could prove level of Jewishness better than any birth/ancestry records, i.e. rich Jews who could buy fake ids/or bribe SS officers and escape extermination camps, would go there based on their genetic test. Some high level Nazi officials could not pass genetic test as well as of pure Arian decent I guess. Genetics is powerful tool and application depends on who is in charge of its usage.
On the other side, recently POTUS suggested to famous American senator pass genetic test and if it confirmed her Indian-American roots, pay her $1,000,000 of his own money.
So, are we going to provide affirmative action privileges soon based on genetic test or abandon all demographics as criteria for admission into college, job placement, promotion you name it and come back to merit base selection?

MarkH October 15, 2018 11:24 AM

As I wrote a couple of days ago on “the squid post” … as far as I can see, people have an affirmative right to disclose as much personal information as they please.

In this case, where such disclosure may damage my privacy, the consequences of their disclosure may be costly. But my privacy right can not (under any generally accepted frameworks of rights I can think of) limit their right of disclosure (free speech).

Perhaps these various databases could have been set up differently. At this stage, is the situation irreversible, or are there practical steps to restore privacy, which wouldn’t impair individual rights?

Peter S. Shenkin October 15, 2018 11:44 AM

@”vas pup”

“So, are we going to provide affirmative action privileges soon based on genetic test or abandon all demographics as criteria for admission into college, job placement, promotion you name it and come back to merit base selection? ”

What do you mean “merit-base [sic] selection”? As conventionally defined, “merit-based selection” is something we have never had. There have always been privileged groups: legacy and athletic admissions at colleges; the boss’s son-in law in a company. The argument for these, as well as affirmative action, is that they are all merit-based, from the point of view of the merit accruing to the institution, and, I might add, from the point of view, most often, of the successful applicants.

I recall a story about Chicago’s first Mayor Daley. His opponent in one election excoriated the Mayor for channeling millions of dollars of city insurance business to his son’s insurance agency. Daley replied, “What’s the world coming to when a man can’t even help his own son?”, thus demonstrating his merit as a fine and upstanding human being whom we should reward with yet another term. The citizens, in their wisdom, agreed.

Jack October 15, 2018 1:13 PM

Europeans have different views on privacy because in living memory they experienced multiple governments using individuals private records (church, doctor, school, etc.) to actively hunt them down and murder them in large numbers. Americans have (thankfully) different experiences, but we should take those European lessons to heart considering potential consequences. By the time this reaches out to touch you personally and that adjusts your risk-reward calculation it’s too late. Ignorance is, as usual, no defense at all.
The terms of use that I’ve seen on the DNA kit required accurate personal identification. No fake names or demographics. I don’t need familial matching by long lost tribal members. So I considered creating a fake name and email, but now have to consider the wider implications.

Little Lamb October 15, 2018 1:26 PM

Consumer genomics databases have reached the scale of millions of individuals. Recently, law enforcement …

What is this? 23 and me? The sperm bank? A paternity suit for child support? Law enforcement is bragging it up a bit much.

There’s an “expert witness” — specifically exempt from subpoena under court rules — who can’t even explain the particulars for the jury because it’s all so bloody PROPRIETARY.

Is it open source? Did they publish all the technical details so that we can test our own DNA at home against an open source database? Repeatable research?

No, no, and no again.

vas pup October 15, 2018 4:00 PM

You provided very good point in your recent post which I respect and agree with.
Solution? Merit based selection should based of kind of measurable independently objective scores: test (multiple – theory, practical – there is space to develop) results kind of. When you move to so called holistic approach, then you open all possibilities you specified in your post. E.g. in figure skating judges formalize their subjective opinion in measurable scores and openly presented them to the public, so their bias would be immediately noticed by everybody. Evaluation by experts is not pure subjective when based on objective criteria. Asians would not be rejected because of their higher scores. Am I against any other things which should be taken into consideration? No, but let say you have 20 available spaces for admission, then ALL with highest objective scores (100) are admitted. If there are more than 20 with such score, other factor could be taken into consideration with openly disclosed process and selection priorities. But let say you have 5 with score 100, 5 with 95, 3 with 90. And 10 with 85. All with score 100, 95,90 are admitted regardless. Then for the rest seven places those with score 85 compete utilizing other factors with transparent process. But no other factors could beat score less than 85 in this example and to be admitted when somebody with score 95-100 rejected.

@all recent development:
Elizabeth Warren: DNA test finds ‘strong evidence’ of Native American blood:

“The vast majority” of Ms Warren’s ancestry is European, it concludes, but “the results strongly support” a Native American ancestor.

This puts Ms Warren as between 1/32 and 1/512 Native-American, according to the Boston Globe”.


Thunderbird October 15, 2018 5:41 PM

This puts Ms Warren as between 1/32 and 1/512 Native-American, according to the Boston Globe”.

The whole thing about “degree of blood” is kind of interesting, because the units of heredity are discrete rather than continuous. You get 1/2 of your genetic material from each parent, but NOT 1/4 from each grandparent, because of recombination. It does average out to 1/4, which it wouldn’t even do without recombination, but you could theoretically get anywhere from 0 to 1/2 from a grandparent. Anyway, the really weird deal is that the number of discrete pieces you get from a generation increases linearly with the generation while the number of ancestors increases exponentially. This means that when you get back six (I think) generations you are guaranteed (well, almost guaranteed) to have ancestors from whom you inherited no genetic material at all.

This link discusses the effect in some detail. So, that is probably where the “1/32 to 1/512” part comes from, and it’s probably got some kind of error estimate attached to it that didn’t get quoted, just like every poll or study we ever read about.

This is not exactly security-related but it is an interesting example of how a process that seems intuitively obvious to the most casual observer actually is very different than we expect.

echo October 15, 2018 6:14 PM


This is not exactly security-related but it is an interesting example of how a process that seems intuitively obvious to the most casual observer actually is very different than we expect.

Science and the law are a good antidote to politicians and vested interests forcing reality to personal and selfish fantasies. In this respect I would suggest it is security related.

By and large US media is more “educational”. Mainland European media tends to be betetrquality than the UK. UK media tends to chase the agenda and what personality is in a spat with another. Articles I consider educational tend to become forgotton and buried because too many shouting heads and the media urge to fill the page push everything else out of the way. UK spending on research is very low with most acadmeics hiding behind paywalled journals. The decline of manufacturing has led to a change in the make up of parliament where there are now few to no politicans with an engineering or scientific background.

By focusing on better quality informed discussion this will put pressure on politicians and political parties to “level up” and that those who “hit low” and irrelvant to democratic discourse will be selected out by the market, as indicated by thoughtful media and contributions on this blog this week.

This kind of article hekps improve quality of reasoning which includes both the cognitive and emotional so is valuable not to mention good variety to keep perpectives fresh and open borders to discussion so things don’t become too insular and rigid.

Humdee October 15, 2018 8:12 PM


What causes the estimate is genetic drift.

Precisely speaking, all the geneticist can do is state that Warren has a gene consistent with a Native American haplogroup in some time period Y.

Indeed, it is entirely possible that she has no Native American ancestry whatsoever due to random chance. However, what makes her story plausible is that there is birth certificates for her ancestors that seem to suggest Native American ancestry.

Lots of people with political agendas make fun of her but honestly I don’t know of any respectable genealogist who would reject her claims. Going back that far is as much art than science and frankly she has more data on her side than many other people who trace their ancestors do.

Dave October 15, 2018 11:10 PM

@Peter S. Shenkin: You’re lucky to have been (presumably) born after 1945, and in the US rather than Europe. If you’re not familiar with the story, read up on what happened in the Netherlands, which kept particularly good records on people of Jewish ancestry.

Winter October 16, 2018 12:45 AM

“it’s probably got some kind of error estimate attached to it that didn’t get quoted, just like every poll or study we ever read about.”

Another point is that there is no reason to assume the Native American ancestor did not have some European or African ancestors herself.

There are even ample examples of “european” children growing up as native Americans, and feeling that way too.

I find it telling that everyone seems to think Native Americans were somehow different from other humans in this respect.

I think this whole Warren ancestry is another example of the racism that rules the current GOP.

Clive Robinson October 16, 2018 4:50 AM

@ echo,

The solution to a lot of problems seems to be be born with richer relatives.

Even better longterm health outlooks, and even statistically “a better death” by natural causes.

It has been attributed due to the past improvments in “midle class” health to “less stress”.

There were a few small tests on “stress markers” carried out in humans but for some reason they appeared to have disappeared. Which might relate to the fact that some scientists were concluding that stress was as deadly as smoking in terms of years lost and manner of death[1].

Likewise other primate studies that showed stress markers were related to the direction in hierarchy in a group.

One finding was it was low level continuous stress not high level or major stress. With office workers stress markers were found to relate to how the person saw themselves fit in with their supposed peers. Thus things like poisition of desk, clossness to air con, lighting level and even the footfall to the water cooler all had predictable effects on not just a workers stress markers but also their perceived effectivness. Which would suggest even small changes early on can have significant later effects.

But also the way people spoke to each other or the nick name they get given also establishing a hierarchy with inbuilt stress.

It’s noticable in some health care guidlines that peoples names be written in full, but the name they preffer using gets underlined as it’s been found to have improved outcomes.

Thus name calling might not break peoples bones, but ultimately prove far more deadly…

[1] Which would be a very unpopular finding in most neo-XXX ideology which has the credo of “what befalls you is your fault, thus any suffering you might suffer is justly earnt”. As that allows them to also claim the opposit that everything they have is justly earnt, which it clearly is not. In effect it’s a psychopathic view, which is only partially ameliorated by tribal instinct hence “First amongst equals” effect.

me* October 16, 2018 4:51 AM

*not the same me of the above comment 🙂

Also: google has my contacts even if i don’t use google.
-my friends have google and google have their contacts
-friends have me in their contacts, it means that they know me, noone save random numbers in the contacts.
-if you have x in contatcs x have you in contacts; except if it’s a restaurant or other service, in this case you have them in your contacts but they haven’t you. but this can be filtered out because restaurant number is public.

this means that google can know my contact list even if i never used google.

same goes for facebook and dna as @Frankly said.
i think too that it’s the same problem and should be solved

me* October 16, 2018 5:09 AM


But my privacy right can not (under any generally accepted frameworks of rights I can think of) limit their right of disclosure (free speech).

True, and i think this too.
but do you think that it is fine if google can build your contact list, which you have not disclosed to anyone, by using contact lists of your friends?
i don’t think that this is correct.
also, the consent model is broken, there was an article about this, probably from schneier blog.

Clive Robinson October 16, 2018 7:08 AM

@ MarkH, me*,

But my privacy right can not (under any generally accepted frameworks of rights I can think of) limit their right of disclosure (free speech).

Actually even in the US “Free Speech” has limits of legal acceptability when it comes to harming others.

In fact you don’t even have to show harm will occure, just that it is likely to occure.

This was established quite a while ago that you could not stand in a crouded auditorium and shout “Fire” not because your actual words are harmfull, but the effect they would have on others who would then cause harm to others.

European president from between WWI and WWII clearly shows the harm that can be done by finding somebodies blood relatives and from that there are interesting parts of the various treaties on genocide that likewise support the view.

echo October 16, 2018 8:02 AM


Whatever happened to egonomics and quality of life? Poor work practies and low level bullying are all to “normalised”. In the UK the psychiatric establishment is absent from leadership and therehave been suspicions in some quarters for a few years now that the UK medical establishment is so rigid and insulated and suffering from so much god complex they are blindly trying to impose the UK model as practiced in reality on the rest of the world via the WHO and now position statements whose main role is to look authoritative and deflect attention aware from domestic UK healthcare failure on their watch.

Ignoring both policies and the law has become routine within UK healthcare as indeed it has in large portions of the UK state sector.

All of the above and more is hidden behind the Brexit bulldozer and propoganda tool.

I fear we now livce in a time when lipservice is paid to “consent” and “mandate”. The manufactured view of too many appears to reflect Pope Leo X, who allegedly said upon his accession, “God has given us the papacy, now let us enjoy it.”

Peter S. Shenkin October 16, 2018 9:34 AM

@dave Well, ya pays yer money and yer takes yer cherce. I’m not going to hide in a corner over the fear that what happened during the holocaust is going to happen here. Of course it might, but ya takes yer chance as well as yer cherce, and I am willing to live, and perhaps die, with the consequences of my own choice.

@”val pup” The ideal of objective merit testing will never be met, and has good arguments against it as well. Everyone in education as well as industry has experience with “giving a chance” to a promising person with less proven accomplishment – the “diamond in the rough.”. The experience is of course mixed. But so is the experience of doing one’s best to admit or hire based purely on accomplishment, merit, or whatever you want to call it. Personally, I’m fine with the Harvards of the world discriminating as they see fit, based on legacy, athletics, racial mix, and that certain “je ne sais quoi” that they perceive in some applicants.

vas pup October 16, 2018 9:39 AM

You said”I think this whole Warren ancestry is another example of the racism that rules the current GOP.” I respectfully disagree. Moreover, I highly respect and support Senator Warren’s actions on putting strong leash of regulation on financial sector to prevent next crisis. But that is not the point. The point is that she got admission to elite college by claiming American-Indian decent and got AA privilege having just 1/32 of American-Indian decent. I guess that all AA was initial good initiative, but not having objective criteria of application just went the wrong way.
(1)It was assumed that all minorities are poor. Which was true many years ago, but e.g. Obama’s kids, other black celebrities in sport or movie industry are out of very wealthy families.
Application of AA based on race only regardless of income is absolutely wrong. Same applied for kids of tycoons in Africa coming to US for education. AA was never ever was set up to give them privilege based on their race versus US kid out of inner city.
(2)Race as criteria itself is vague. E.g. kid from India claimed to be black (based on skin color) was admitted to medical school through AA(affirmative action) privilege, he have start education but made this public. Same with Latino:
kid from Spain or rich parents form Latin America should have AA privilege? I doubt.
Conclusion: when you have good intention, you should have right implementation (objective criteria in this case) in order not to compromise good idea itself.
As usually, I appreciate reasonable input on view, not personal attacks and labeling – just in accordance with blog’s policy. Thanks.

charlie October 16, 2018 10:07 AM

I’m waiting for the insurance companies to either buy the DNA sequencing companies or surreptitiously download it after they’ve been hacked and then start refusing people health-insurance as they now know that you are going to be expensive in the long run. It’s just a matter of time.

echo October 16, 2018 10:20 AM

@vas pup

I perceive a big lack of understanding and a nagtive tilt to your comment. Affirmative Action in the US is a different thing to the UK position of positive action in the UK. In UK law the obligation is actually on you to do your due dligence and learning and creation of policy and implementation. I mention this because in the UK there are lots of individuals and organisations who don’t understand this (or who don’t want to understand this) and keep turning things around and throwing the burden on impacted communities to make the arguments and build support for change. This can and does become a very wearing exercise.

If a lazy boyfriend acted this dumb with his turn washing the dishes and expected muggins to cook his dinner too he wouldn’t be a boyfriend for longer than it takes to pack his suitcase.

vas pup October 16, 2018 10:30 AM

Linguistic red flags from Facebook posts can predict future depression diagnoses:

“Research finds that the language people use in their Facebook posts can predict a future diagnosis of depression as accurately as the tools clinicians use in medical settings to screen for the disease.

Analyzing social media data shared by consenting users across the months leading up to a depression diagnosis, the researchers found their algorithm could accurately predict future depression. Indicators of the condition included mentions of hostility and loneliness, words like “tears” and “feelings,” and use of more first-person pronouns like “I” and “me.”

[!!!!]”Social media data contain markers akin to the genome,” [!!!!]Eichstaedt explains. “With surprisingly similar methods to those used in genomics, we can comb social media data to find these markers. Depression appears to be something quite detectable in this way; it really changes people’s use of social media in a way that something like skin disease or diabetes doesn’t.”

…the researchers identified data from people consenting to share Facebook statuses and electronic medical-record information, and then analyzed the statuses using machine-learning techniques to distinguish those with a formal depression diagnosis.”

Who could really check how Facebook really use your data without your knowledge?
Could prospective employer (currently many of them required to provide your social media account information) run the same algorithm? That is just method. You could find out by similar type of analysis your very personal features. Your privacy is gone. You have no right to be notified for real reason of rejection
On a positive side: I would analyze same social media data in dynamic of people who committed suicide (completed or not) in order to predict probability in similar cases and (possible) mass shootings(less reliable due to small sample to feed AI for learning);IC and LEAs for their employees/CIs for predicting possible deviation of behavior (burnt out, loyalty management.I guess they do it anyway now, but AI could add new powerful dimension.

MarkH October 17, 2018 12:02 AM


US law, as presently interpreted, is strongly biased in favor of liberty of speech. In particular, European states often regulate speech in ways that would be impermissible in my homeland.

The famous “falsely shouting fire in a theatre” case at the US Supreme Court was in fact largely overturned about 50 years later.

The present standard limits government interference in “dangerous” speech to

advocacy … directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action

Note that “lawless action” is understood in this context as actual physical violence.

Essentially, censorable speech must be an act both intended, and likely, to result in violence. It is not sufficient that it be mere information: the speech must be of a persuasive or inflammatory nature.

DNA databases are very far outside this highly restrictive ambit.

Winter October 17, 2018 12:46 AM

@vas pup
“The point is that she got admission to elite college by claiming American-Indian decent and got AA privilege having just 1/32 of American-Indian decent.”

The question then is, did she cheat?

Because all the arguments you give against US AA are irrelevant. Warren did not write these laws. If she as a student was eligible under AA, she had a right to use it. GOP politicians have used bad laws to their advantage too. Too often, the “abuse” of bad laws even seems to have been intended by the law writers.

But the obsession with Warren’s racial background, and the derogative nature of their remarks against native Americans in this respect smells of racism to me. Pure and simple.

Coen October 17, 2018 6:35 AM

Man… Bruce said: A good news article. I read it as an article bringing good news, but after I followed the link I think Bruce meant a good article, bringing news.

me* October 17, 2018 8:26 AM

@MarkH @clive
i’m probably going off topic but afaik in italy you can’t say “fire” in auditorium; it is: “procurato allarme” which translates more or less to “false alarm”. but seems that it happnes only if you call the police/anti fire department when it’s not needed, i’m not sure, anyway it’s not a good idea to try.

in general people are free to say what they want as soon as they don’t damage other people in doing so.
the question is: is publishing dna/contact list, or other kind of personal informations damaging me?
the problem is the scale of this:
-if a friend makes his contact list public people can guess that he knows me since he has me in contact list.
-if the whole world, except me, does the same everyone will indirectly know my contact list.

little pieces of informations are useless alone, but combined can be dangerous.
i don’t see an easy solution for this problem.

Security Sam October 17, 2018 6:30 PM

Our digital privacy is just an illusion
The reality check causes confusion
And a DNA solution using data fusion
Creates a brave new world of delusion.

Cincinnatus__SPQR October 17, 2018 7:55 PM

I went to Lodz, Poland to look for traces of my relatives. According to my map, there was a cemetery in a certain spot in the city. I went to find it.

“When the Soviet army entered Łódź on 19 January 1945, only 877 Jews were still alive, 12 of whom were children. Of the 223,000 Jews in Łódź before the invasion, only 10,000 survived the Holocaust in other places.”

There was no cemetery. The Poles had built a park with well-cut grass and a tennis court on top of where the people were buried–after selling the headstones.

I took a DNA test and posted my results on two websites. Relatives overseas and in the U.S. wrote me. I wrote them back.

It was a very valuable experience. But, at the same time, I have to wonder what would have happened if the Third Reich had been able to exploit today’s DNA technology.

Almost Arian October 18, 2018 1:36 PM

It doesn’t matter if the Nazis had it. They would cherry pick the data anyway. They were not objective about what they did. Adolf didn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes.

Chris October 18, 2018 4:33 PM

Genetic and location information (new GPS technology will soon be so precise it will be able to measure a heartbeat) is something that a number of increasingly international ‘stakeholders’ in society have wanted for a long time. I wrote a long and very cynical post about the issues but it was just too depressing. Let me just say this. Genetic information, location information and spending information are being used and going to be used much more in ways which would outrage everybody if they knew. Thse changes are not occurring in a vacuum. A war is being waged on the concept of democracy of by and for natural persons.

National laws are being rendered FTA-illegal and then quietly dismantled in large numbers by international agreements between like minded oligarchies. The changes being put into place are going to become a real nightmare for almost everybody. People have no idea.

The picture doesn’t look good for poor people especially.

If the information is collected it will be made available in the quest for profit. We have a system that has many deep and far reaching problems so heroic efforts are occurring to twist logic and create a whole new amoral system that justifies it all.

The media whether its intentional or not, has no clue on this. It might as well be not happening for all they tell us. Its all about money. The world’s oligarchs are of one mind in the suppression of democracy. because the world is going to need it more in the coming years than it ever has before.

One has to think like an oligarch thinks.

vas pup October 19, 2018 11:20 AM

Ok @Winter. I found the point of agreement in your post:”Too often, the “abuse” of bad laws even seems to have been intended by the law writers.”
Exactly. Who is objective judge? The person who unbiased in applying already biased laws? Legislature creates biased and vague laws, as result we have huge army of lawyers to get what they want kind of preferred ‘fish’ out of the ‘pond of murky water’. Yes, currently judicial branch provides due process, but what about justice in particular for average Joe/Jane? Same applied for abuse of power by LEAs. If laws were clear, there were substantially less space for cover/hide behind the vague law. They are just opportunists using legal framework they are put in. So, going to the roots and you could see real source of many problems.
Did I ever stated she was cheating? No, but law which gives somebody preference based on their demographic/DNA/money of parents or other criteria which has nothing to do with personal merits/achievements I consider wrong and unfair just because its implementation does not specify objective and measurable criteria.
@Almost Arian partially right. But even Racial Laws of Nazi Germany of 1934 had some of measurable criteria for so called ‘Arian’ tribe. They were different for serving in SS, other government service or go to extermination camp. Just observation.

echo October 19, 2018 11:14 PM

What drove him was his sense that class hierarchies would resist the reforms he helped implement. He explained how it would happen in a 1958 satire, his second best-seller, entitled The Rise of the Meritocracy. Like so many phenomena, meritocracy was named by an enemy. Young’s book was ostensibly an analysis written in 2033 by a historian looking back at the development over the decades of a new British society. In that distant future, riches and rule were earned, not inherited. The new ruling class was determined, the author wrote, by the formula “IQ + effort = merit”. Democracy would give way to rule by the cleverest – “not an aristocracy of birth, not a plutocracy of wealth, but a true meritocracy of talent.” This is the first published appearance of the word “meritocracy”, and the book aimed to show what a society governed on this principle would look like.


The carapace of “merit”, Young argued, had only inoculated the winners from shame and reproach.

The concepts of “merit” and “genetics” are often abused.

Put aside the vexed notion of “merit”, and a simpler picture emerges. Money and status are rewards that can encourage people to do the things that need doing. A well-designed society will elicit and deploy developed talent efficiently. The social rewards of wealth and honour are inevitably going to be unequally shared, because that is the only way they can serve their function as incentives for human behaviour. But we go wrong when we deny not only the merit but the dignity of those whose luck in the genetic lottery and in the historical contingencies of their situation has left them less rewarded.

Privacy and dignity seem related to the bigger political issues this topic has attracted this week.

vas pup October 20, 2018 2:49 PM

@echo; agree with your last post.
When merits are abandoned, we got ‘Idiocracy’.
I hope you have chance to see this movie in UK.

echo October 20, 2018 4:13 PM

@vas pup

Thanks. I hoped you would like it. I stayed away from making any big points to avoid waffling and lecturing. I’m dealing with too many stresses and pressures to want to watch anything to do with ‘idiocracy’. It’s too close to reality!

vas pup October 23, 2018 8:37 AM

@Bruce and other interested in privacy recently on C-SPAN:
Communicators with Joseph Turow
Joseph Turow, a University of Pennsylvania professor, talked about privacy policies. He said many people mistakenly believe the term “privacy policy” guarantees their information will be kept private.

(30 minutes)

What I love about this video that Prof Turow confirmed what I stated multiple times on this respected blog: privacy policy is written not for YOU/user, but for lawyers and by the lawyers to give you zero chance neither understand what policy is about nor win in the case of litigation.
That is not rule of law, but rule of lawyers and they are not with your best interest in their mind. Basically not surprising at least for me, ‘who pays money, those order music’ – Old (bitter in that context)joke.

vas pup October 24, 2018 9:02 AM

Tim Cook blasts ‘weaponisation’ of personal data and praises GDPR:

“This year, you’ve shown the world that good policy and political will can come together to protect the rights of everyone,” he said.

“It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead. [Yes, but big money will oppose that]

“We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.” [Bravo!!!]

The remark was met with applause from the conference audience.

“US companies are losing trust and without that trust they cannot make the digital economy function as well as it should,” said Mr Killock, referring to the negative public reaction surrounding data breaches and cases of data misuse.

However, Prof Mark Elliot at Manchester University argued Mr Cook did not go far enough.

“The implication of fully functioning privacy in a digital democracy is that [attention!!!]=>individuals would control and manage their own data and organizations would have to request access to that data rather than the other way round,” he said. [I have the same dream as Mark Elliot suggested].

Win Bigly December 1, 2018 6:05 PM

This capability of tracing back by genetics was already announced almost as soon as it came out by one of the luminaries of internet design who warned that privacy was gone once enough familial ties were discovered. So its not really new news.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.