Responsible Genetic Genealogy

This article provides supplemental information to my earlier article, Your Comments are Requested Concerning an Interim Policy Concerning Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching, that is available at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn101011.

Quoting an article by Thomas F. Callaghan in the ScienceMag.org web site:

“The scientific development of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG), which couples genetic analysis with investigation of publicly available genealogy information, has successfully transformed law enforcement investigations by solving more than 50 cases over the last 18 months in the United States. However, use of FGG by law enforcement has preceded widespread development of best practices to protect the genetic privacy of private citizens who have voluntarily submitted samples to genealogy databases. Absent best practices, use of FGG could lead to compromised cases, diminished use, or the loss of this new investigative tool. Public support for FGG could be jeopardized and confidence in forensic DNA analysis could be undermined. As the custodian of a national law enforcement DNA database (CODIS), the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looked to by many in the law enforcement and forensic DNA communities for guidance, and its efforts often influence the global community. The emergence of FGG suggests that further discussions on privacy, genomics, and the use of genealogy by law enforcement would be beneficial. Accordingly, the FBI seeks to engage the scientific and bioethics communities in such a dialogue.

“Use of FGG involves databases and family trees composed of genetic data of private citizens who are not under suspicion for any crimes. When searching crime scene DNA in these databases, potential perpetrators may be uncovered by identifying their close or distant relatives, and then building family trees that can extend over many generations and may include hundreds to thousands of relatives. To date, this approach is only used if crime scene DNA has not matched genetic profiles in the CODIS database of known offenders and arrestees. A consensus has emerged that there is no legal prohibition on such use. The question is how it should be done.”

The full article may be found at: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6462/155.

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