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In a recently published PNAS article, we studied the identifiability of genomic samples using machine learning methods [Lippert et al., 2017]. In a response, Erlich [2017] argued that our work contained major flaws. The main technical critique of Erlich [2017] builds on a simulation experiment that shows that our proposed algorithm, which uses only a genomic sample for identification, performed no better than a strategy that uses demographic variables. Below, we show why this comparison is misleading and provide a detailed discussion of the key critical points in our analyses that have been brought up in Erlich [2017] and in the media. Further, not only faces may be derived from DNA, but a wide range of phenotypes and demographic variables. In this light, the main contribution of Lippert et al. [2017] is an algorithm that identifies genomes of individuals by combining multiple DNA-based predictive models for a myriad of traits.

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