Chinese Scientists are Working on a Way to Create an Image of a Person’s Face from a Blood Sample

Law enforcement use of genealogy DNA databases has created a lot of controversy lately. (See for a number of articles about voluntary submissions of DNA information by genealogists that have been published in this newsletter over the past year or more.) Now a story by Chris Stanford in the New York Times adds even more questions to the controversy.

From the article:

“It sounds like science fiction, but it isn’t.

“Chinese scientists are working on a way to create an image of a person’s face from a genetic sample, using blood collected from ethnic Uighurs swept up in mass detentions in China’s Xinjiang region.

“At least two Chinese researchers working on the technology have ties to institutions in Europe, and critics say Beijing is exploiting the openness of the international scientific community for questionable purposes. The Chinese have said that they followed international norms that would require research subjects’ consent, but many in Xinjiang have no choice.

“The details: The process, called DNA phenotyping, is in its early stages and is also being developed in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

You can read more at:


1. Can you imagine what the Nazis could have done with this technology had it been available in the 1930s and early 1940s?

2. Can you imagine what future governments will do with this technology?

3. If you submit your DNA now, will you be identified and discriminated against in the future? Will you possibly even be arrested, as is happening today to the ethnic Uighurs in China?

4. Will the technology ever develop to the point where your relatives’ faces can be identified from a DNA sample that YOU submitted years earlier?

5. Today’s use of voluntarily-submitted DNA information by law enforcement officials in the U.S. reportedly is used solely for the commendable purpose of identifying violent criminals. Will that be true forever? Or will governments, corporations, political parties, and even foreign governments find other uses for our DNA information in the future?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions but I will suggest we all should think about the future implications of what we do today.

“What the Chinese government is doing should be a warning to everybody who kind of goes along happily thinking, ‘How could anyone be worried about these technologies?’” said Pilar Ossorio, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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