Help Us Catch Killers is now the New Advertising Angle for DNA Companies

A DNA ancestry company criticized for letting police use its gene databases is turning the table on critics. FamilyTreeDNA has now produced a TV advertisement that urges consumers to help them catch criminals.

The television spot, to air in San Diego first, asks anyone who has had a direct-to-consumer DNA test from another company, like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, to upload a copy so that law enforcement can spot any connections to DNA found at crime scenes.

Bennett Greenspan, the firm’s founder, said he had decided he had a moral obligation to help solve old murders and rapes. Now he thinks that customers will agree and make their DNA available specifically to help out.

You can read more about this effort and watch a video of the new advertisement in The Download web site at http://bit.ly/2V8c2Zm.

11 Comments

So Mr Greenspan “decided he had a moral obligation” to take a certain action. He may certainly do so if he wishes. I believe that trolling in my DNA is something that should require a properly-executed search warrant. So I will not be putting my results out there for him or who knows who else to muck about in.

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If he thinks this is the way to go for moral reasons
tell him to offer it for FREE

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Something completely immoral about his actions. Will it just stop at murder or will it be slowly stretched to cover any crime for which there is DNA – spitting in the street?

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I’m disappointed in this decision for the reason that in the past we’ve asked other family members to “Help us with the tree” by providing their DNA… which they did. Only now they find out its being used for other reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for catching the bad guys but this feels kinda sneaky adding this After the fact.

It was always difficult getting some people to donate… now if afraid some will just say No.

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As a FTDNA user I am sorely disappointed by this viewpoint. The company charges customers a lot of money under the auspices of finding ancestors or specific health data. Now, without any feedback from customers, the company opts to pivot and be law enforcement friendly? Does the company not realize that public opinion is shifting to privacy over public knowledge? Nothing is as personnel as your DNA.

The company is providing an option to make customers DNA unavailable to law enforcement. The question now becomes at what point does the company feel that their moral obligation extends beyond their customers privacy?

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I will be the person, in addition to Greenspan, who thinks this is a good idea. Did anyone read the part about solving TWO cases per week? That’s not a lot. Even after a familial match, actual genealogical research must be done, followed, eventually, by a true DNA test of the suspect against the evidence retrieved at the scene of the crime. All of this is time consuming and expensive. How many genetic genealogists are there out there to do the genealogy on the familial matches? Not that many. So, the probability of testing for misdemeanors, like spitting on the sidewalk, assuming there is such a law, is small. Heck, if you’ve ever been burglarized, you know that the most you will ever get is a police case number so you can collect an insurance payout. On the other hand, there is a huge backlog of DNA rape kits and other DNA evidence which could be tested, though I doubt that many of them will be. In addition to catching felons, we could also avoid sending innocent people to prison. Think of that when you are suspicious of the police. We might even avoid an expensive trial, when a suspect and his/her lawyer is faced with DNA evidence. From my perspective, if my DNA leads to a strong suspicion of, say, a cousin, whose DNA must still be tested, I’m all for it.
Surely you know that the same genetic comparisons are already being done at GedMatch.

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Two points. One I would recommend reading their privacy statement before commenting. You can chose to not participate. Two is that FTDNA, like some other testing companies, is located in the USA and must comply with the law when compelled.

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    But other US companies are not noted for 100% compliance and 100% privacy. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft come to mind. Trust no-one, neither government nor corporation.

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Hey folks! If any of my relatives have committed murder or rape I’m all for helping put them behind bars. After all, I might be the next victim. Law enforcement is welcome to use my DNA results.

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