China Uses DNA to Map Faces, With Help From the West – New York Times December 3, 2019

I saw this on New York Times website today – China Uses DNA to Map Faces, With Help From the West – New York Times December 3, 2019*

By Sui-Lee Wee and Paul Mozur

TUMXUK, China — In a dusty city in the Xinjiang region on China’s western frontier, the authorities are testing the rules of science.

With a million or more ethnic Uighurs and others from predominantly Muslim minority groups swept up in detentions across Xinjiang, officials in Tumxuk have gathered blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs — part of a mass DNA collection effort dogged by questions about consent and how the data will be used.

In Tumxuk, at least, there is a partial answer: Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person’s face.


Despite such examples, experts widely question phenotyping’s effectiveness. Currently, it often produces facial images that are too smooth or indistinct to look like the face being replicated. DNA cannot indicate other factors that determine how people look, such as age or weight. DNA can reveal gender and ancestry, but the technology can be hit or miss when it comes to generating an image as specific as a face.

A big red flag is phenotyping typically gives percentages when it comes to specific details.  With my results, 23andMe generates the odds of me having different eye and hair colors as well as freckle levels.

< 1% have blue eyes.

< 1% have greenish blue eyes.

1% have green eyes.

4% have light hazel eyes.

9% have dark hazel eyes.

11% have light brown eyes.

75% have dark brown eyes.

Just because 75% of the people who tested at 23andMe have dark brown eyes isn’t a guarantee that a potential suspect doesn’t fall into the 25% who don’t have dark brown eyes.


55% have few, if any, freckles.

45% have lots of freckles.

Light or dark hair?

2% have light blond hair.

10% have dark blond hair.

29% have light brown hair.

55% have dark brown hair.

4% have black hair.


About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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