Venter and colleagues at his company Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI), based in San Diego, California, sequenced the whole genomes of 1,061 people of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds. Using the genetic data, along with high-quality 3D photographs of the participants’ faces, the researchers used an artificial intelligence approach to find small differences in DNA sequences, called SNPs, associated with facial features such as cheekbone height. The team also searched for SNPs that correlated with factors including a person’s height, weight, age, vocal characteristics and skin colour.
The approach correctly identified an individual out of a group of ten people randomly selected from HLI’s database 74% of the time. The findings, according to the paper, suggest that law-enforcement agencies, scientists and others who handle human genomes should protect the data carefully to prevent people from being identified by their DNA alone.
The scientific community, including a co-author (who works for Apple), suggests that the paper misrepresented the data.
The point is that we are going in that direction and the progress is remarkable. The scientist reviewing the paper for Nature said:
HLI’s actual data are sound, and he is impressed with the group’s novel method of determining age by sequencing the ends of chromosomes, which shorten over time.