The Future of Crime-Fighting Is Family Tree Forensics, or Is It?

A lot of news stories in this newsletter and elsewhere have focused on the recent interest by law enforcement authorities in using DNA to help identify criminals. Many of these criminal cases have been solved years after the crimes by using the publicly-available genealogy GEDMatch.com web site to find close relatives of the criminals, then interviewing those relatives to further narrow the search for the criminals.

Catching violent criminals obviously is a good use of the available technology. However, some legal experts argue its use in criminal cases raises grave privacy concerns. Will this technology soon be used for non-criminal purposes?

No court order is required to mine GEDMatch’s open source trove of potential leads, which, unlike forensic databases, contains genetic bits of code that can be tied to health data and other personally identifiable information.

Currently, there aren’t any laws that regulate how law enforcement employs long-range familial searching, which hobbyists and do-gooders have turned to for years to find the biological families of adoptees. They expect to see a legal challenge at some point, though probably not in the next year.

You can read more about the legal and privacy implications in an article by Megan Molteni in the Wired web site at: http://bit.ly/2RIpp5f.

3 Comments

And then there’s also the parallel legal issues around using these databases to resolve, or at least research, paternity and estate issues. Lot’s of legal wrangling over these issues coming in the next few years.

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And….adults accidentally finding out their parent isn’t who they thought they were. Lots of ethical questions to go along with the legal ones.

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There are probably as many opinions as there are DNA samples! A hyperbole I know. But do Americans agree on anything anymore? Polarization has invaded politics and government unfortunately and some of it isn’t pretty.

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