A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]Hot on the heels of Google Print, Google Local, and Google Base comes a new service—this one aimed at online genealogists. With the November launch of Google Link, the Mountain View company hopes to join genetic genealogy with Google's famous search technology.
The project is the brainchild of Google engineer and novice genealogist Matt Scott.
"I got to thinking how much genetic material is out there in the world," said Scott in a telephone interview, "and how great it would be to have that information stored and indexed in one place."
The project will begin with genetic material in the public domain—gathered from used tissues, discarded Starbucks cups, and public telephone receivers—and then will grow to include material voluntarily submitted. Google researchers have worked with geneticists to ensure the integrity of samples, and with private investigators to establish their provenance.
Privacy advocates are already voicing criticism of the Google Link concept. Miriam Leary of the ACLU's Genetic Privacy team envisions a nightmare scenario.
"I would ask every American to consider the possible consequences. Your entire genetic profile will be posted online. Your traits, your hair color, your predisposition to disease will be broadcast to the world. This is 1984 all over again—the book, not the year."
Matt Scott scoffs at the idea that Google Link will be misused.
"This will be a godsend to genealogists looking for cousins, or curious about their genetic origins. I predict that people will be lining up to submit their cheek swabs. And even if they don't, we have ways of making them cooperate."