Susan Watts of the BBC reports, “Government and companies now collect, store and analyse as much information as they can about the way we interact with them. Their goal is the pursuit of efficiency, and to find ways to save, or make, money. There is even a phrase for it – ‘big data’. The idea is not just to collect this data, but to analyse it. Take healthcare. In December 2012, the government announced a big data plan for perhaps our most intimate of data, the DNA read-out of 100,000 people with rare diseases and cancer. It is a colossal sequencing effort. Not only does each patient have a unique DNA code, but so do their cancer tumours. And some patients will respond to certain drugs better than others, depending on the genetic variants they carry.”

Watts goes on, “The claim is that a mass DNA database could herald a new era in medicine, and make the nation richer too. Aside from highlighting British innovation and attracting investment, the initial focus is to help people who are already sick. For the rest of us, the argument goes, if enough people are on the database, trends will become clear. So we could be more confident that our personal DNA read-out can be checked against those trends and might warn us we are more at risk of certain diseases, and do something about it like changing our lifestyle of getting screened.”

Read more here.

Image: Courtesy Flickr/ ynse