Google to collect genetic and biological material anonymously from users

25 Jul 2014

Google is expanding its harvesting of information even further in the years to come, with its Baseline Study that involves the collection of anonymous genetic and biological information from an initial 175 users.

Led by 50-year-old microbiologist Dr Andrew Conrad, who is also part of Google’s X programme, the study team is attempting to harvest as much data as possible to test the technology to analyse a person’s physiological well-being and pre-emptively treat issues such as heart disease and various cancers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

By finding patterns, otherwise known as ‘biomarkers’, a scientist may be able to notice the pattern of particular enzymes or other biological information and inform the patient, while also using the data to develop potential treatments.

When testing officially begins, Conrad and his team will run the tests on 175 people anonymously before pushing this out to a few thousand as Baseline progresses.

The obvious question that needs asking is what Google’s role will be in anonymously harvesting data, particularly biological, given criticism aimed squarely at the company regarding incidences such as the collection of people’s Wi-Fi data through Google Maps camera vans.

One potential piece of hardware that will track this information is the Google contact lens that is in development that could measure the glucose levels in a person’s eye moisture. Another scientist on the project, Sam Gambhir, has promised that Google will not be given free reign over its collected data.

“That’s certainly an issue that’s been discussed. Google will not be allowed free rein to do whatever it wants with this data.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic