EDITORIAL

Responsible genetic genealogy

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Science  11 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6462, pp. 155
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz6578

Summary

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.

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