Proposed Utah Legislature Bill Would Keep Law Enforcement from Probing DNA Data

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City (Utah), said he is filing a bill, which has yet to be publicly released, in the 2020 Utah Legislature that will prevent police from accessing at-home DNA tests to perform familial DNA searches.

Law enforcement has found that tapping into DNA data, which has sometimes been linked to genealogy, can lead to criminal convictions in unsolved crime cases, but the practice also has raised ethical and privacy concerns.

Companies such as Ancestry, which is based in Lehi, Utah, have already banned the practice. According to Ancestry.com’s law enforcement guide, they “do not allow law enforcement to use Ancestry’s services to investigate crimes.”

You can read more in an article by Decker Westenburg in The Daily Universe at: http://bit.ly/37rhFYY.

11 Comments

About time too. Thank you Ancestry!

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Forget “that ship sailed”. The entire fleet left safe harbor when so many people happily gave their rights away to the company that bought GEDMatch.

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What is the problem, unless you are a criminal . We should all be thankful that there is now a way to identify those who have raped, killed or maimed our friend, neighbors and loved ones.

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    If the police/law enforcement agencies cannot catch a criminal without DNA; what kind of detectives are they? Perhaps there were better ones in the past, ‘cos otherwise hardly anyone would ever be caught!

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    —> What is the problem, unless you are a criminal . We should all be thankful that there is now a way to identify those who have raped, killed or maimed our friend, neighbors and loved ones.

    The concern I hear most often is when databases designed for one particular, law-abiding purpose are used for other, often illegal, purposes. As to my own opinion, if I was confident that GedMatch and other DNA databases would be used only for legal uses for which the databases were designed, I would not be concerned. However, history is full of stories about databases being misused for all sorts of improper and often illegal purposes.

    One example (not DNA related) happened recently where I live in which police officers, including plain clothes detectives, used an online database that is not available to the general public. It is restricted for use only by law enforcement personnel and then only for the purpose of investigating criminals. In this case, police officers used the database to investigate and then to blackmail their neighbors, co-workers, and other people they didn’t like.

    In some cases, the “blackmail” did not involve money. Instead, the police officers used the information illegally to pressure co-workers to remain silent about past illegal activities by the officers, to pressure neighbors into doing or not doing certain things, to silence complaints, and so on. Some used the data to blackmail prostitutes about previous arrests and then demanded the prostitutes “service” the police officers themselves.

    See https://www.clickorlando.com/news/2019/02/15/orlando-police-officers-disciplined-for-misusing-drivers-license-database/ and https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-ne-orlando-police-david-violations-20190320-story.html and probably other news reports as well.

    Of course, this is only one example of improper and illegal use of databases. There are many similar stories.

    Then there is the case when criminals, hackers, and others who are not supposed to have access to restricted databases do obtain access in some manner…

    Who keeps the keys to these databases? How secure are those “keys?””

    In the case of GedMatch: it was started by two genealogists as a free service and they obviously had the best of (legal) intentions about its use. Now GedMatch has been sold to a commercial firm. Commercial firms are in the business of making profits. GedMatch contains data submitted by genealogists freely with the assurance that it would be used strictly for legal genealogy purposes. Who knows what the new owners will do with the previously-submitted information in order to generate profits? How will the new owners control access? How will the new owners make sure the information is not used for illicit purposes?

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I would like to be able to “opt in” and allow my DNA results on Ancestry to be used by law enforcement. Criminals get all the breaks in our country.

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    I agree with you Maureen. I’m absolutely not concerned about law enforcement accessing DNA databases to solve crimes. I personally think the angst over this is much ado about nothing. I’ve been more upset at people putting my close family members in their own tree and publishing the info online. That is much more invasive to me when my family members are not their ancestors and the “collectors” did not even know my family members.

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    That’s why I stopped using My Heritage because of all the “collectors”. It seems that some people put quantity over quality, and their trees often have around 50 thousand people, most of which aren’t even their own ancestors.

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Once you upload your DNA for matching to 23&me, GEDMatch, etc, you voluntarily give up rights to its distribution. You did it because you WANT to compare with others. Otherwise don’t test. You can’t say that some pigs are more equal than others. It’s ok for people like me to see it, but I don’t want those other guys like cops, hackers, big pharmas, or whatever to see it. Who decides who’s a good good guy and who’s not? You published it; you can’t control who reads it.

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Have to wonder how much of this is about protecting our privacy or just the loss of potential income for the DNA testing industry?
There is no such thing as “Anonymous” or “Privacy” anymore. If you think anything is safe may I remind you about the release of 148 million people’s private data from Experian – the credit reporting agency that you didn’t even sign up for. “much ado about nothing” ? You have no idea what the future holds especially considering they retain samples. Future testing could be used to determine your health insurance pricing or maybe even a prefered (or undesirable) ethnicity? We just don’t know.

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LindaS: Genealogists who put your close family members in their trees are most likely doing so because they want to identify their distant cousins – that means you and your family – and possible DNA matches who could be evidence for distant common ancestors. They might want to see if you’d be interested in exchanging information or working with them on research.They aren’t interested in anything more. There are people who have large trees that are well documented for that reason. As long as your close family members are marked as private when they are still living or if the fact of a death is unknown, I don’t see anything wrong with this.
Robert G Kirk: Who decides who’s a good guy and who’s not? Good question, and here’s the answer: I do. You do. We all do, individually and collectively. We should not have to just throw up our hands and give up our rights, we should all have the right to choose how our genetic data is legally used. Did you notice the operative term there?
Sea Foam: You’re right, nothing is completely safe, and we don’t know what the future holds. When has human history ever been different? So does that mean we refuse new technological and medical tools to advance our knowledge? Do we wring our hands and shrink away? Some of us do. But some stay on guard, hang in there, and watch as the future unfolds.Their goal is to work toward making these tools benefit us rather than harm us. Which group would you rather be in?

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