Rumors of a Google Clone Army Exaggerated
"Did you hear about the spit story?" somebody in the CNBC trailer asked.
"What's the spit story?"
"Apparently Google are getting people in Davos to spit in a bag so they can collect their DNA."
That sounded interesting. Google could use the DNA and clone its own army of politicians, bankers and rock stars. It could hold a rival summer World Economic Forum full of doppelgangers. It could combine the DNA to create a super CEO.
Not satisfied with collecting user search information, the team in Mountain View, Calif. wanted the whole human.
I stumbled through the slush to the Belvedere Hotel, where the saliva stations were set up near the elevators and -- not surprisingly -- the Davos rumor mill was way off the mark.
First of all, it's not Google, but a software firm funded by the company. And they aren't swabbing, you send your saliva in a bag to a lab.
The company, named 23andMe after the number of pairs of chromosomes we all have, offers personal genetic information on its site. Co-founder Linda Avey took me on a test drive on its site and it is pretty cool. You can trace ancestry, see geographical genetic information, organ donor matches and to a small extent given what genetic information is knows, pre-disposition to certain illnesses.
The company also hopes that it can develop a kind of genetic Facebook, where you can interact with other users who share your genetic similarities (and ability to afford the $999 price tag).
Can 23andMe reassure people who are very reluctant to enter their social security number into a secure Web site? Avey said the company takes security very seriously, keeping the DNA and personal information separate and learning about secure Internet software from banks.
But overall, criminals want your money much more than your DNA, she said.
That probably goes for Google, too.