Google Gene Project Comes into Question

According to a new book on Google, the search engine is working with scientists to make genetic information available on the Web, but a representative of one of the scientists denies it.

Search giant Google Inc. began work early this year with several noted scientists to make information on human genes more readily available, claims a new book profiling the Internet search giant.

According to "The Google Story" by Pulitzer Prize winner David Vise, the worlds most popular Internet search engine and the scientists involved believe the project will vastly improve future medical care, plus considerably speed up the pace of medical and genetic research.

The book contends that Google has already had access to the details of about 30,000 sets of human genes mapped by geneticist Craig Venter and others from the National Institutes of Health.

Venter, interviewed for the book, is quoted as saying the project is something "geneticists have wanted to do for generations."

"We need to use the largest computers in the world," Venter reportedly said. "Working with Google, we are trying to … characterize all the genes on the planet and understand their evolutionary development."

Its hard to imagine such a project not generating any controversy. People already fear that there is too much private information available on the Internet. Privacy concerns are sure to grow worse when peoples genes, which contain clues to their physical traits or predispositions to disease, are made available online.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about privacy issues raised by Google in the past.

A Venter representative, casting doubts on the project, said during an interview Monday, "We do not have any ongoing projects with Google," and wouldnt comment further.

Vise, in an interview, seemed taken aback by the Venter spokespersons statement. Prior to the books publication last week, Vise said, reps for Venter and Google reviewed relevant parts of the book for accuracy, and neither objected to the "Googling Your Genes" references.

A Google spokesperson did not return a phone call seeking comment. Google typically does not comment on its future projects. Google has said in the past that it is conscious of the issue of privacy, and it knows it must do no "evil" in conducting business or introducing new search services.

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