Many among us are already fraught with worry that the Internet knows too much—the result of social media transparency, online shopping, and all manner of insidious hacking and/or surveillance.
We don’t want our privacy breached in principle…but what if our identity is actively used against us? And what if this doesn’t merely hurt us alone, but also plunge us, as a society, back into the segregated and racially discriminatory conditions of decades past?
Could technology undo the social progress that we have made?
A Github coder has created an app with terrifying implications—it can be used to block people from visiting websites because of their race. The app’s name itself—Genetic Access Control—brings to mind some dystopian horrorscape.
We already have to deal with the issue of covert racial profiling by the police and other authorities, but this is truly ridiculous.
It appears that the app is being pitched as a means for allowing minorities, such as “groups defined by ethnic background,” to maintain a space for themselves, rather than as an actively discriminatory tool.
But such a qualifier is of little comfort, because in action the app could, and will, be used in a prejudicial way.
And although minority groups deserve to have a space or platform to commune amongst themselves, they all benefit from allies outside of their gender/orientation/race, etc. This app could prevent dialogue between groups that need to deal with the tensions between them in a civil, open way.
Thankfully, this nightmare scenario is (at least for the time being) contingent upon people being (willingly) scanned by genetics firm 23andMe, as the app draws from 23andMe's DNA database. But the danger still looms—the simple fact that a coder or company would think to create such technology is troubling.
23andMe seems to agree. The firm recognized the app as one that builds “hate materials or materials urging acts of terrorism or violence,” and blocked it immediately after its Monday release.