6 Spotify songs to listen to while Silicon Valley steals your DNA

Commentary: Ancestry.com wants you to match your DNA to a Spotify playlist. But if you're worried about Silicon Valley storing all your biometric data, what's the music for you?

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
4 min read
DNA double helix strand viewed with smartphone

One question has plagued molecular biologists for centuries: Is it a banger?

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1869. In a laboratory in Germany, Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher stared at the white blood cells under his microscope and asked the question that would lead to the discovery of DNA and 150 years of scientific research:

"If you could listen to your DNA, what would it sound like? And more importantly, does it slap?"

This week the genealogy website announced a partnership with Spotify for AncestryDNA customers to discover their ethnic origins and put the answers to music -- or in Ancestry's words, "Your AncestryDNA results can play a unique Spotify mix of music, inspired by your origins."

That's right, science, we don't need you anymore. We've got Ancestry.com at the vanguard of scientific discovery when it comes to the building blocks of humankind, creating the perfect Spotify playlist to match your DNA.

It's the next logical step for the tech world, which has been quietly invading our bodies for years now. From those first step trackers and fitness apps all the way to China's state-wide facial recognition and social scoring database, technology is constantly finding new ways to track our bodies, quantify our movements, store our unchangeable biometric identifiers and remember our DNA.

What if you could track every invasion of privacy and every egregious attempt at biometric surveillance in a playlist of songs? What sick beat would you match to each instance of technological overreach, every time Silicon Valley tried to measure and store your most personal information?

Worry no more! In the spirit of the new era of biometric tracking, we've racked up a playlist of unmitigated bangers to listen to while Silicon Valley and the police state invade every cell in your body. Turn your stereo up to 11, cede control of your digital personhood and get ready to ROCK!

1. DNA. -- Kendrick Lamar

"I got millions, I got riches buildin' in my DNA."

That's right, you can secure your riches in your DNA now. A startup called Carverr has developed technology to use synthetic DNA as a way of storing data, including cryptocurrency passwords. In the future you won't need to remember your PIN at the ATM -- just spit on the keypad!

2. One (Blake's Got a New Face) -- Vampire Weekend

"Blake's got a new face! Blake's got a new face!"

Forgotten your passport? No worries! The airports of the future will be able to scan your face using biometric cameras and match it to an international database. And it's not just for boarding planes -- facial recognition is also used for fun things like unlocking your phone! Or to help police in China find you in minutes using biometric cameras hidden in their glasses. Fun things like that!

3. All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints -- Paul Simon

"He says there's no doubt about it, it was the myth of fingerprints, I've seen them all and man they're all the same."

Even if you don't have a face-scanning camera in your phone, Silicon Valley still has you covered. Just use your fingerprints. Better than a PIN, because you'll never forget it. And better than a PIN because you'll also never be able to change it -- even if that biometric data is hacked or breached. Huzzah!

4. Every breath you take -- The Police

"Every step you take, I'll be watching you."

OK. So you don't board a plane, you don't use facial recognition and you've burned off your fingerprints. But you can still use a fitness tracker, right? Who could possibly want that data? OK, maybe your insurance company, to lift your premiums. OK, and maybe your employer, to track your movements and all that weight gain from sitting at your desk all day. And maybe hackers who want to know whether you're jogging around a secret military base in the Middle East. But apart from that…

5. Riders on the Storm -- The Doors

"There's a killer on the road."

Your biological information isn't just used to identify you. Now you can play a part in helping police track down your relatives! DNA databases played an integral part in the capture of the Golden State Killer in 2018, when the killer's profile was matched to data on the website GEDMatch. You never know when your quest to find your family tree could out Uncle Jim for those crimes he committed in the '70s.

6. Bad Blood -- Taylor Swift

"Take a look at what you've done, 'cause baby now we got bad blood."

This one is more honorary mention to everyone who believed in Theranos -- the Silicon Valley company that promised to simplify blood tests by using 1/1000 of the amount of blood required by other pathology tests. But if you poured your blood into a "nanotainer" to be analysed by Theranos' "Edison" machine, I have bad news: You gave your DNA to the wrong people. The whole thing was a sham.

Ancestry.com has been contacted for comment.

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First published Sept. 25, 11:46 p.m. PT.

Update, Sept. 26 at 4:41 p.m.: Ancestry.com provided the following comment regarding privacy under the new partnership: "Protecting our customers' privacy is Ancestry's highest priority. Spotify does not have access to DNA data of any Ancestry customers.  Customers can manually input regions, into the playlist generator on Spotify and then a custom playlist is created with songs by artists from the various regions and across a wide variety of musical genres. All information is manually input by customers and the experience is completely optional."

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