Safety for the environment is probably implicit here as well, but the focus should be on the people who may come in contact with large amounts of synthetic DNA used to encode information as a data storage medium.
The idea of using DNA as a digital storage medium is not new. Two papers are listed below but there are many others.
Recently the concept has been further highlighted by the news of a "movie" being encoded using CRISPR-Cas. A Harvard University video explains the process:
In this video, Wyss Institute and Harvard Medical School researchers George Church and Seth Shipman explain how they engineered a new CRISPR system-based technology that enables the chronological recording of digital information, like that representing still and moving images, in living bacteria. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
For more information, please visit: https://wyss.harvard.edu/taking-cells...
below: a GIF showing the original data, and the "movie" interpreted from the recording in DNA. From the Los Angeles Times:
DNA DVR? Scientists have uploaded a short movie of a galloping horse into the DNA of living bacteria and were able to retrieve it with a 90% success rate. (Seth Shipman)
The immediate application in the Harvard Wyss Institute work seems to be (based on my understanding of the video) in-situ data logging, where information relevant to an experiment is recorded in the DNA of cells involved in the experiment. So the use of a moving image is a way to bring home the key point of "chronological recording of digital information".
Other uses involve the DNA itself, stored outside of living cells, as simply a mass storage medium.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if there are sequences that are likely to become algorithmically avoided as standard practice for safety reasons (or should be) when using DNA as a digital storage medium. The DNA may be handled by IT personnel rather than trained biologists, or shipped, or otherwise not be treated with the same diligence to safety that synthetic DNA is handled by researchers today.
Some other discussions of DNA as a storage medium:
Next-Generation Digital Information Storage in DNA, Church, Gao, Kosari, 2012. doi:10.1126/science.1226355
Towards practical, high-capacity, low-maintenance information storage in synthesized DNA, Goldman et al. 2013. doi:10.1038/nature11875
For further background on the temporally encoded data work, see the excellent answers to the question What does it mean to “write an image and GIF into the DNA of bacteria”?
edit: I'll quote a comment here just to make sure that the word safety isn't misinterpreted as data integrity or the safety of the bacteria:
When speaking of safety issues related to the handling of biological or biomolecular samples, it's the safety of people that we worry about. Safety rules, safety procedures, safety courses, safety glasses, these are for the safety of the human, not the safety of the sample.