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Genetic Linkage

DNA for the greater good: Should the police have access to consumer DNA databases?

 In the spring of 2018, the capture of the Golden State Killer using a consumer DNA database catapulted the issue of genetic privacy into the headlines. A year later, a second case has pushed genetic privacy to the precipice of a slippery slope as the mothership of DNA databases involved in both cases, GEDmatch, has changed its Terms of Service to give users more control over accessibility of their data to law enforcement.

 

But will increased privacy control slow the momentum in using DNA to catch criminals? The new forensic technology is cracking a case a week now, turning cold cases red hot.

 

The FBI works with genetic genealogists at Parabon NanoLabs, which for many cases uses GEDmatch, which is free. These experts combine DNA information with traditional resources like historical accounts, diaries, and census data to identify individuals.

 

The Utah case

 

This spring's flashpoint centered on use of GEDmatch to break an assault case in Utah. Up until then, the 55 crimes that Parabon Nanolabs had solved using DNA data had all been sexual assault or murder.

 

To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

 

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A Proposed DNA Data Protection Act? The Cat’s Out of the Bag

A team of biologists, policy analysts, and legal experts from the University of Queensland call for a new Genetic Data Protection Act in an article just published in Genetics in Medicine.

A new law is needed now, the researchers argue, because of the increasing difficulty of keeping the threads of DNA use separate. “What happens to our genetic data in one realm, such as forensics, is highly likely to affect how society trusts the use of genetic data in medicine. The speed of these developments has surprised many and demands a policy response to protect trust in medical genetics,” they write.

A data protection act is a great idea, but isn’t it a little late? The collision between genetic privacy and the consumer testing data dump that forensics is tapping into is already here. And it may detonate when the millions of DNA kits sitting under Christmas trees right now are translated into information. Read More 

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