Policy ForumGenetics and Privacy

Genealogy databases and the future of criminal investigation

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1078-1079
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau1083

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  • RE: Law and science intersect through DNA forensics beyond the Golden State Killer Case
    • Michael D Garrick, Professor of Biochemistry & Pediatrics, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences - University at Buffal

    The policy forum for Genetics and Privacy by Ram and her colleagues (1) analyzes how the police can access your family tree research via a DNA profile that connects to yourself or your family tree. Their starting point is the arrest of the alleged Golden State Killer after police submitted a DNA profile obtained from evidentiary material and matched that profile to the accused individual by identifying some of his relatives. After their analysis of what the police did, the authors invite legislative solutions that balance social benefits against citizens’ interest in blocking government scrutiny and recognize public perspectives.
    I had the opportunity to bring up and comment on a related topic in the past (2). Dried blood spots are collected on filter paper from most newborns in order to screen for genetic disorders. With rare exceptions, these Guthrie cards (named for Robert Guthrie who developed the test for PKU and originated the idea of using such dried blood spots on filter paper) are stored for many years by most laboratories that do the screening. DNA is readily recovered from them. Having these samples in storage presents an opportunity for forensic usage. As Ram et al. did for the policy forum, I concluded that there needed to be governmental solutions to balance relevant interests and protect privacy. So far, there has been little consideration of this balance and few regions have chosen a solution. Having collaborated with Dr Robert Guthrie, the originator...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • False charges can be created by mixture DNA samples

    Natalie Ram et al. wrote an article entitled “Genealogy databases and the future of criminal investigation” (1). If the evidence contains DNA from only one or two people, DNA profiles are extremely reliable (2). However, if the evidence contains mixture DNA from three or more than three people, the DNA criminal investigation is not accurate at all (2). The DNA criminal investigators must inform us whether sampled DNA is mixture DNA or not. Otherwise, false charges can be created by the scientific DNA criminal investigation. In order to avoid biases of forensic experts, several DNA tests are needed to justify/remove the biases (3).

    1. Natalie Ram et al. ,“Genealogy databases and the future of criminal investigation,” Science 08 Jun 2018: Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1078-1079
    2. https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2017/10/nist-assess-reliability-fo...
    3. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6386/243

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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