Briefing

Scientists in China are using DNA to generate images of people’s faces

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The technology is being tested with blood samples collected from Uyghurs and others from mainly Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region of western China. Some of the research is conducted in labs run by China’s Ministry of Public Security and is backed by funding from European research institutions. (The New York Times)

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Talking point: The technology, called DNA phenotyping, is also being developed in the U.S. and elsewhere. It’s been used to identify a murder victim in Maryland, as well as a suspect in North Carolina who pleaded guilty to murder. The U.S. cases are examples of its intended use. But ethics experts warn that Chinese authorities could use the technology for its racial profiling and state discrimination efforts against Uyghurs and other minorities. Specifically, the technology could tap into the country’s robust DNA database—the largest in the world—and use the images to reinforce its growing facial recognition systems and ultimately identify, not just criminals, but protestors and dissidents.