In April 2018, US police finally identified a murder victim (known as "Buckskin Girl") whose identity had remained a mystery for 37 years. Despite everything that they threw at the case, Forensic Science could not come up with the answer. But Genetic Genealogy did, and in doing so, made history.
|The Buckskin Girl case was solved in 4 hours|
once the kit had been processed by Gedmatch
The excitement generated by the case did not have a chance to die down because two weeks later, the prime suspect in the Golden State Killer case was arrested, causing a media storm. Once again, genetic genealogy techniques had helped identify the most likely candidates for the killer, and (using routine police work) officers had followed these leads and gathered the evidence necessary to bring charges against a single individual.
Since then over 11 people have been arrested and charged with rape or murder, thanks to the application of the new technique by Law Enforcement agencies across the US. This new development seems to be in the process of changing forever the way that law enforcement solves "cold cases".
|Some of the suspects arrested over the past 7 months|
But in fact, the technique is not that new at all. The genetic genealogy community have been using the powerful marriage of DNA combined with genealogy to solve cases of unknown persons for almost 10 years. This use began shortly after the first DTC (direct to consumer) autosomal DNA tests were introduced in 2007. It is the same technique that has been used to help adoptees & foundlings identify and locate their birth families, to help donor-conceived children find their genetic father, and to solve illegitimacy mysteries in our family trees. The methodology is exactly the same (a person's DNA matches point to specific family trees that are likely to contain that person's ancestors, and consequently, one of the descendants of those ancestors will be the person's birth parent) and the outcomes are similar: a candidate is identified, and further DNA testing helps to confirm, refute or bolster the probability that we have found the right person.
The technique is simple (relatively) but labour intensive - finding the answer can take hundreds or thousands of hours to achieve.
And this is particularly true of Law Enforcement cases because legally they only have access to Gedmatch (database size 1 million) whereas the rest of us are using the combined database power of Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and (most recently) LivingDNA - a total database size of over 20 million people. On a simplistic level, this potentially makes our ability to find an adoptee's family 20 times easier than Law Enforcement finding a killer.
But all these recent developments (and the now regular revelations that yet another serial killer suspect has been arrested) has sparked fierce debate about the use of DNA for a purpose other than what was initially intended. (1) Is it right to use our DNA in this way? Was adequate consent obtained from all the customers on Gedmatch? Is the use of Gedmatch an invasion of privacy? Will innocent people be inadvertently targeted? Have such concerns been overstated? What are the risk involved with this new use and how do we safeguard against them?
In early Oct 2018 a paper was published in the journal PLOS Biology entitled: Should Police have access to genetic genealogy databases? (Guerrini et al, 2018). They conducted a 20-item survey of 1587 people. Participants were aged 18 years or older and were recruited from the general US population. Overall, in relation to violent crime, missing persons, and crimes involving children, most responders felt that law enforcement should be allowed to search genealogical websites that match DNA to relatives (89-91%) and to create fake profiles of individuals on these sites (72-75%). (2)
|Most responders were quite liberal in their attitudes to police access|
Guerrini et al, 2018
(click to enlarge)
However, this survey was not representative of the general genealogical community. Most participants were under 37 years old (63%) whereas genealogists tend to be older. Also, the majority had not researched relatives on genealogy websites (63%) and had not done a DNA test (88%).
So in order to garner further public opinion, I conducted a survey of the genealogy community - a community which might better understand the processes involved in doing genealogical research and how DNA can be applied to help in that research.
The Survey: Non-genealogical use of DNA to identify unknown persons
The objective of the survey was to assess people's attitudes to the use of their DNA by Law Enforcement agencies. It was conducted between 10th Oct 2018 and 12th Nov 2018 (although most of the recruitment occurred between Oct 10-18). QuestionPro (a platform to create online surveys) was used to collect and analyse the data. The survey was advertised widely on various genealogy groups on Facebook during the period 10-18 Oct 2018. A list of the groups is included in the footnotes. (3)
The following questions were asked:
- Are you reasonably comfortable with law enforcement agencies using your DNA data on Gedmatch to help identify serial rapists and serial killers?
- Answer choices: yes, no, undecided
- Donor-conceived individuals
- John / Jane Doe
- Murder victims
- Non-violent criminals
- Answer choices: no, yes, not sure
An interim analysis was conducted on 12th Oct 2018 and at that stage 187 responders had completed the survey. Of these, 41% of responses came from the US, 19% from Canada, 20% from Australia and New Zealand, 17% from the UK and Ireland, and 4% "other". This all changed by the end of the survey with 42% of all responses coming from Sweden!
This late surge in Swedish responders illustrates several important points:
- you never know what kind of response you are going to get from Facebook
- the genealogy community in Sweden is extremely well organised (I know this from working with them) and clearly is great at recruiting. How this was achieved we are not sure but we know who he is and would like to extend our thanks and gratitude toward him! (You know who you are, Peter)
So, the results were analysed for the group as a whole followed by various subgroup analyses, breaking down the data by demographic features - gender, age, country of residence, etc - to see if there were any major differences between subgroups.
|Figure 1: survey overview|
(click to enlarge)
Over 3000 people viewed the survey and 767 started to complete it. Of these, 83% completed at least one question of the survey, giving a total of 640 full or partial responses and 127 non-responses (i.e. no questions answered despite "starting" the survey).
The country of origin of the responses is detailed in the diagram above and is based on the 767 total responders. The equivalent numbers are as follows: Sweden 314, US 166, Great Britain 90, Canada 50, Australia 44, Ireland 33, New Zealand 32, Spain 15, Norway 6; 2 each from Netherlands, Costa Rica & Germany; and 1 each from Morocco, South Africa, Switzerland, Denmark, Japan, Portugal, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Finland, Argentina, and the Aland Islands (give yourself a free cupcake if you know where this is). Some of these people were clearly on vacation (or on business trips) because the country where they lived was different to the country where the response came from. Typical genealogists - sneaking in a bit of research when no one is looking!
The analysis below is based on the 640 full or partial responses. Not everyone responded to every question so the numbers in the analyses for each question range from 621 to 640. This explains why the numbers for Q4 (in Figure 2 below) differ slightly (but not substantially) from the numbers in Figure 1 above.
|Figure 2: Country of current residence (n = 637)|
(click to enlarge)
The majority of responses came from Sweden (40%, 252), followed by the US (23%, 144), the UK & Ireland (16%), Australia & New Zealand (11%) and Canada (7%) with other countries making up 4% altogether. The proportion of response from "non-other" countries was as follows: US 40%, UK & Ireland 29%, Australia & New Zealand 19% and Canada 12%.
So, all in all, the survey had a very international flavour and there was good representation from predominantly English-speaking countries ... and Sweden.
|Figure 3: age of responders|
(click to enlarge)
The spread of ages across the sample was in keeping with what we already know about genealogists - most are older and most are female (see this survey of 4109 genealogists here - Drake 2001). In fact, only 10% of Drake's sample was under 40 years old. In contrast, 63% of responders in Guerrini's survey were under the age of 37. So there is a large age difference between the two surveys. Will the older age of the responders in this survey result in a more conservative attitude toward police use of their DNA?
There was no substantial difference in the spread of age groups between Sweden, the US and all other countries combined (i.e. all three subgroups had similar percentages for each age group).
|Figure 4: gender of responders|
(click to enlarge)
Almost two thirds of the responders were female, again in keeping with what we know of the demographics of genealogists (see Drake 2001). In Guerrini's survey, the male-female ratio was 48% to 52%.
There were some differences in the male-female ratio between countries: Sweden 43% vs 57%; US 31% vs 69%; other countries 33% vs 67%. So it would seem that there may be a greater proportion of men practicing genealogy in Sweden than in the US.
|Figure 5: victims of violent crime|
(click to enlarge)
Ten per cent of responders had been victims of violent crime. And here there was a difference between countries - Sweden 9.6%, other countries 8.3% and the US 15.8%. So there was about 75% more responders who had been victims of violent crime in the US than elsewhere. Would this influence how people responded?
|Figure 6: DTC (direct to consumer) DNA testing|
(click to enlarge)
A whopping 96% of people had done a DNA test. This was in stark contrast to Geurrini's survey where only 12% of people had taken a DNA test. So it may be that the current sample knew more about DNA testing than the participants in the earlier survey and thus might be better placed to make a judgement about whether or not police should have access to our DNA results.
In the end, however, it made little difference, because the results of this survey were very similar to what was found in Geurrini's earlier survey. Read on ...
|Figure 7: attitude to use of Gedmatch by law enforcement|
(click to enlarge)
The top line result is that 85% of people were "reasonably comfortable" with the use of their DNA results by law enforcement agencies (for catching serial rapists and killers).
This high response rate was relatively consistent across countries, with the notable exception of Ireland (64%) although the sample here was relatively small (n=25). Nevertheless this does raise an issue specific to Ireland that will be discussed further below.
|Figure 8: percentage in favour of police use, by country|
(click to enlarge)
There were no substantial differences between men and women (83% vs 86%), between victims of violent crime and non-victims (77% vs 86%), and between those who had DNA tested and those who had not (85% vs 84%).
There may have been a trend in responses across age groups. Fewer people (73%) in the under 40s age group answered positively compared to those in their 70s (92%). Thus, perhaps contrary to expectations, the younger age groups appeared to be more reticent than the older ones.
|Figure 9: percentage in favour of police use, by age|
(click to enlarge)
These results are largely consistent with Guerrini's findings although the questions asked by both surveys were slightly different. In Guerrini's survey, 91% felt law enforcement should be allowed to search genealogical databases, and 75% felt it was acceptable to create fake profiles for upload to genealogical websites.
So overall, there seems to be broad support for the police use of genealogical databases, and this is independent of gender, age, country of residence, whether or not people have taken a DNA test, and whether or not people have been victims of violent crime.
|Figure 10: support for use of DNA to help identify other unknown persons|
(click to enlarge)
A similarly high percentage of people were "comfortable" for their DNA to be used in other situations to help identify unknown persons, including adoptees, unidentified human remains, murder victims, and soldier's remains (90-92%).
Slightly fewer people (76%) were comfortable with the idea of their DNA being used to help identify the father's of donor-conceived children. There could be several reasons for this:
- some people have greater concerns about privacy and anonymity in this particular instance compared to the other situations
- some of the responders may have been sperm donors themselves
- some of the responders may have had children who did not know that they were donor-conceived
Only 47% of people felt comfortable with their DNA being used to help solve non-violent crimes. And this is in keeping with Guerrini's survey where the percentage was 38-46%.
Of particular interest is the fact that a small but significant number of people did not feel comfortable with their DNA being used for any of the above purposes (3.4%). It may be that these people would never upload their data to Gedmatch or might even delete their DNA results.
Were there differences between the various subgroups? Gender did not substantially influence the percentage of positive responders in each category. In fact, the differences between men and women never exceeded 3.2%.
Responses by country were also broadly similar, with some minor differences. Support for helping adoptees ranged from 85-100%. The least support for helping donor-conceived individuals was in the UK (70%), and highest in Australia (92%). Ireland was the lowest-scoring country overall, with the lowest scores in 4 of the 6 categories (although once again, we need to be cautious about over-interpreting the data given the small sample sizes).
|Figure 11: support for use of DNA to help identify other unknown persons, by country|
(click to enlarge)
The final question explored attitudes toward the need for additional regulation and produced the most interesting results. The choices started with "No - existing regulations that govern law enforcement activities are sufficient" and 23.5% of people agreed with this. But they were outnumbered by the 40.4% of people who felt that additional regulation was essential.
|Figure 12: attitude to additional regulation|
(click to enlarge)
But perhaps most surprising of all was the 36% of responders who were not sure if additional regulation was needed. And this is a very large percentage. It suggests that many people are not aware of the regulations that currently govern police activities and whether or not they are adequate. If this is the case, and it seems likely that it is, it points to a huge need for public education in this regard. This degree of uncertainty is likely to cause much stress within and beyond the genealogy community and may impact on the numbers of people doing DNA tests in the future.
There was a substantial difference between men and women in their responses. Although similar proportions felt that existing regulations were sufficient (25% vs 23%), more men than women felt additional regulation was essential (51% vs 34%). This was counter-balanced by the higher proportion of women who were not sure (24% vs 43%).
Only 6% of victims of violent crime felt that existing regulations were sufficient, whereas 52% felt additional regulation was essential and 42% were unsure. Although the number of victims was relatively small (n=65), the result is quite striking as it is counterintuitive. One would imagine that victims of violent crime might be more supportive of no additional regulations but this was not observed in this sample.
There were no major differences across age groups in the nature of their responses. A "No" response ranged from 17% to 28%, a "yes" from 30-50%, and a "not sure" from 33-43%.
|Figure 13: attitude to additional regulation, by age|
(click to enlarge)
However, the differences between countries were particularly interesting. Only 3% of responders from New Zealand and 4% from Ireland felt that existing regulations were sufficient. This contrasts sharply with a 36% response in the US. Although we have to be wary of the small samples from New Zealand (n=29) and Ireland (n=25), these results do give pause for thought.
Similarly, the countries with the highest response rate in favour of additional regulation were Other (67%), Ireland (64%), and Canada (61%). And the countries with the greatest numbers of uncertain responders were New Zealand (48%), Sweden (43%) and Australia (41%).
Overall this paints a picture of considerable diversity of opinion, and a high degree of uncertainty, that varies from country to country.
|Figure 14: attitude to additional regulation, by country|
(click to enlarge)
I was drawn to the unusual results for Ireland, which I can partially attribute to my own Irish bias as an Irishman. Only 64% of responders were "reasonably comfortable" with the use of their DNA results by law enforcement agencies, and only 4% felt that existing regulations were sufficient. In fact, 64% felt that additional regulation was essential. But why this stark contrast to other countries?
I am mindful of the 1200 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland that could potentially be resolved through the use of these Genetic Genealogy techniques. But is that going to open a can of worms? Might old animosities be rekindled? Might it spark a resurgence of the violence? Is it better to let the dead rest?
These are difficult questions, that I do not know the answer to, but they are questions that need to be addressed.
Comments from Responders
The survey included a free text field where responders could write clarifications or general comments. These fell into several broad categories and a selection of these are included in the Footnotes section below. (4)
The broad categories were:
- Privacy & Consent
- Police Procedures
- Wrongful Targetting
- Possible Abuses
Many important points are made in these comments and it is worthwhile reading them in their entirety. Here is a brief selection of some of the comments:
- Several people suggested that police should be required to obtain a court order or search warrant before accessing Gedmatch
- There was concern expressed about targeting the wrong suspect and the risk of harm to that individual (in terms of his career, social standings etc)
- Possible abuses of the system included the following examples: corrupt police manipulating evidence, authoritarian regimes discriminating against ethnic minorities or "enemies of the state", and misuse of the DNA by health insurance companies, telemarketers, and criminal elements (e.g. to disrupt witness protection programmes)
- The largest number of comments concerned the perceived need for additional regulation of police (and government) use of publicly available genetic genealogy websites. Several responders stated that they were not sure which regulations were in operation nor how effective they were.
- It is important to appreciate that law enforcement will never have access to your raw DNA data but rather to your list of matches
Firstly, the limitations of the sample have to be recognised. The sample size (640) is a decent number but as with any sample, the opinions expressed are a good reflection of the opinions of the sample. Does it have more widespread applicability? Can the results be extrapolated to a more general population?
Most of the respondents were genealogists and most had undertaken a DNA test, so these results better reflect the genealogy community (and more specifically, the genetic genealogy community) rather than the general population. Nevertheless, the similarity between the results of this survey and Guerrini's survey is striking. Most people are comfortable with police use of their DNA results on Gedmatch, whether you are a man or a woman, old or young, Swedish, Yank or Kiwi.
And most people are reasonably comfortable with the use of their DNA to help in other situations - helping adoptees and donor-conceived people to connect with genetic family, helping police identify murder victims, and helping identify soldier's remains from the field of battle. It seems that the potential for the Greater Good is appreciated by the genealogy community and the general public.
But despite this support, there is a burgeoning need to explore what additional regulations (if any) need to be introduced to control the way that DNA is used in the various law enforcement agencies around the world, and to safeguard people who may be wrongfully targeted, as well as those who have contributed the DNA.
In short, there is a need to explore the pros and cons of additional regulation, and the pros and cons of no additional regulation ... country by country.
(1) We should bear in mind that what we consider to be "genealogical records" (i.e. census data; birth, marriage & death records, etc) were never intended to be put to genealogical use when they were first introduced. But we now consider their genealogical use "a normal part of the process". This normalisation may also occur with use of DTC DNA results by law enforcement.
(2) The citation for the journal article is as follows: Guerrini CJ, Robinson JO, Petersen D, McGuire AL (2018) Should police have access to genetic genealogy databases? Capturing the Golden State Killer and other criminals using a controversial new forensic technique. PLoS Biol 16(10): e2006906. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2006906
Published: October 2, 2018
(3) An invitation to take part in the survey was posted on a variety of Facebook groups. These groups (and their then membership totals) included ISOGG (17,018), Genetic Genealogy Ireland (5138), Irish Ancestry (23,032), Ancestry UK (33,668), Irish Surname Registry (14,845), New Zealand DNA Users Group (432), Gedmatch.com User group (26,871), Gedmatch.com Discussion group (6199), DNA Detectives (99,647), Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques (47,547), DNA Help for Genealogy (UK) (6361), GOONS (Guild of One Name Studies) (665), and GOONS (Ireland) (47). In addition, an unknown number of people (Peter included) shared the invitation on an unknown number of other Facebook groups and perhaps used other media to disseminate the invitation. Thus the true reach of the invitation is unknown, but potentially reached an audience of well over 100,000 people.
(4) selected comments from the Comments section included the following:
Privacy & Consent
|119||As anearly user of GEDCOM I was very distressed to find they had allowed law enforcement access to database for crime solving. This was not our primary purpose when we joined GEDMATCH. Whilst I wish them to solve crime I feel we should have been asked if happy about it.|
|260||Informed consent is important|
Happy to share data in a controlled environment with agreed parameters, to which I have signed up.
|92||What I object to is the fact that when the samples were uploaded the question of their being used for anything other than genealogical research was not made clear, or not sufficiently clear.|
|25||Additional to No. 3. Concerned that Australia has yet to introduce privacy protections like most of 1st world countries have.|
|210||As long as the person who'se DNA is linked to a criminal/crime is given automatic rights of anonymity during any legal proceedings & media publications then I can not see why this should not be utilised. I also feel that each participant must only be selected to participate if they have formally agreed to allow their DNA to be analysed in such a way|
|343||I personally have nothing to hide. I think that there should be a disclosure and an option for people to keep their DNA private. Some situations could call for privacy.|
|23||I understand the use of DNA by law enforcement agencies and approve as long as the identity of myself or others is assured and we are not subject to some ramification (i.e. lawsuit) further down the tract.|
|116||A search warrant should be applied for , the same as required to search any place/material/property. Should be necessary with carefully researched details/ criteria as conditions of any search warrant.|
|129||Am concerned that government agencies may not use qualified analysts to resolve their cases and hence mis-identify indivuals for a crime. Also concerned as to the future access of various agencies and what limitations they may put upon those who fit 'certain' criteria which is evidenced from the DNA aka racial bias of some sort based on genetics.|
|293||Law enforcement should need to obtain a warrant before using GEDmatch or ANY other public database. That warrant should be provided to the website before going this route.|
There are way too many bad, corrupt, lazy, incompetent, and overzealous law enforcement, prosecutors, and DNA forensics experts who have no problem with going after the wrong suspect because they believe they have the correct suspect. It doesn't matter if you are a victim of the judicial system because it was a corrupt or overzealous cop or prosecutor. Saw a case where a person was found not guilty, rightfully so, but the cop's response: 'We picked the wrong jury.' Better response should have been 'We arrested the wrong man.'
|336||Needs to avoid possible problems with illegal search and seizure|
|26||police should have to get a court order if researching a perpertrator of a crime.|
|328||My only concern is the planting of DNA by corrupt law enforcement official.|
|178||As I understand it, the US did have a man on death row, but if they used DNA properly it they would see it was evident that his twin brother was as likely to be culpable and so could the use of DNA could save an innocent person's life. (I remember this from a television programme many years ago, so I think the use of DNA could be a positive in ensuring innocent people are not charged.)|
|304||Concerned that some law enforcement officers may not respect the rights of innocent relatives of the unknown target they are seeking, may arrest a person on suspicion who later turns out to be innocent, but meanwhile has career and reputstion ruined.. also concerned that insurance companies will use dna to discriminate against people with genetic risk of certain expensive diseases. Also concern that g ovt. In the wrong hands could use dna for ethnic discrimination.|
|156||DNA doesn't identify killers and rapists. It can be used to identify SUSPECTS who might then go through the judicial system to face trial which might result in them being found guilty. Don't join the bandwagon that apparently wants to skip the trial bit.|
|168||Is there enough safe-guarding to protect innocent individuals genetically related to scene-of-crime DNA samples which may have come from the perpetrators of the crime?|
|255||Law enforcement use of Gedmatch is equivalent to a ' warantless search'and we fought too hard over time for an effective prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, including numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions that are constantly under seige. As an African American, I don't trust law enforcement to be fair, honest, transparent--if you think I'm overstating my case, look at the history of law enforcement misconduct in Chicago and how it has affected ppl of color and the poor for generations. I removed all of my family's data from Gedmatch and caution against use of the site which I have formerly used with enthusiasm for 7 years.|
|169||On the face of it, it seems reasonable to use any means to catch a rapist or murderer etc but I don't trust law enforcement completely and worry about targeting the innocent. Also I am concerned about families going DIY to find blood relatives. Not all birth relatives or adoptees want to be approached. There are specialist agencies who can deal with this more sensitively and carefully. It's one thing to get in touch with distant cousins in order to find out about shared ancestors and quite another to use DNA to find and possibly harrass living people.|
|584||Yes, some concerns of non democratic countries misusing our DNAtests.|
|282||Same usage by criminal element, telemarketers, scam artists|
|72||1. Regulation is needed to ensure confidentiality of the DNA info|
2. Concerned that if this information got into the wrong hands it could threaten people in witness protection programs.
3. Authoritarian regimes could use this info to persecute certain groups
|180||Concern the rise of a group like Nazis in Germany could use DNA to identify enemies of the state ie the particular ethnic group they do not little.|
|285||I am concerned about rising authoritarianism in the U.S. and around the world. If a government redefines non-violent crime to include peaceful political protest, and my DNA matches are co-opted into helping government suppress peaceful political protest, I'm against that. I guess the problem is: what's crime?|
|54||If there was an authoritarian regime in power, I would be worried by a lot more than just being discriminated against. just look at laws the equivalent of the Patriot Act.|
|30||My only concern is the use of DNA in restrictive regimes for acts that would not be crimes elsewhere - for example sex outside marriage is a punishable crime in countries.|
|43||The question not asked is regarding the danger of refusal of insurance for health susceptibilities, and possible use of ethnicity results in the hands of authoritarian regimes.|
|65||It's absolutely scary how DNA testing could be used by fanatical authoritarian governments to identify and target individuals for terror purposes. Given what we see happening in the US right now, that is not far away .....|
|457||A biobank permission can be elaborated like the One for donation of organs for us using dna for genealogy purposes.|
|83||Civil rights must still take precedence in the use of DNA for non-felony crimes.|
|385||From Sweden. Before saying yes to use DNA for new purposes, there has to be clear rules made by lawers, etic experts and other persons who understand the consequenses of opening up DNA databases for new purposes. It is impotant that DNA data does not fall into the hands of wrong powerful persons/organoisations (dictators, terrorist, hackers, evil persons etc.)|
|47||I have only put one Ancestry test on gedmatch because of law enforcement's use without permission of that site. I don't regret that the killer was found but I do think that there should be restrictions to their use and that one should be able to decline having their Data used by law enforcement. The test I offered on gedmatch was my own. I will never upload a test there or anywhere else until there are restrictions, permissions and the ability to. opt out which often cannot be trusted.|
|115||3. Not sure because of variance between the laws in the country holding the database and the countries that are looking at the crimes.|
|478||Additional regulations are needed worldwide. Who should have access to your DNA and the analyses? The doctor in order to prescribe pharmacogenetic drugs? The insurance company? The employer? The ethics goes beyond just Gedmatch and the work by the police.|
|211||Debate is needed, but so is education on privacy issues from all sides so a *reasoned and rational* decision can be made on regulation and acceptable uses|
|140||Definitely the time is right for discussions. Many genealogists have no knowledge of law enforcement regulations, so even if they agree that non-genealogical DNA could/should be used, do they really know what they are agreeing to?|
|141||I am only comfortable with the use of genetic genealogy databases by law enforcement if there is proper oversight limiting the ways in which the technology is used. Law enforcement currently have no way of verifying the credentials of genetic genealogists. My fear is that unethical or unqualified genealogists could potentially misidentify a suspect or a Doe which could cause significant harm. I am also distinctly uncomfortable with the lack of regulation in most US states over the use of discarded DNA. Because of the lack of regulation, anyone's DNA could effectively be taken without consent and uploaded to a DNA database, not just by law enforcement but for any other purpose (eg paternity cases).|
|388||I live in South South. I have no problem with my DNA being used to put criminals away but I think that the use of DNA by Law enforcement agencies should be regulated so that it cannot be abused.|
|69||Laws need to be enacted stating that use of DNA to solve crimes is acceptable but not for insurance companies or religious groups to discriminate.|
|512||Live in Sweden|
Would like clarification on when these methods can be used, which type of crimes etc. Also what will happen with the family tree the police is building to identify candidates for suspects or victims (J Doe) etc. It seems appropriate that these trees are not made public at the time of trial. It would involve persons who may not want their identity revealed.
|266||Minimum experience, certification, and/or ethics for person doing research a must. Double check quality control. Rights of matches need to be established. No fishing in scientific or medical databases. No more getting swabs of a suspect's kids DNA from their medical lab. Also, slippery slope with non violent crimes, could be used against protestors and other unpopular movements. I have no problem with serial crimes, but desire a clarification on what crime scene dna sources can and cannot be used to generate a suspect list or dna facial profile.|
|314||My answers are based on the present state of Consumer DNA testing. With the addition of new regulations and with new procedures to protect the privacy of consumer DNA testers, I might be open to LE access for resolving very serious crimes and identifying unknown human remains.|
|110||People doing these tests aren't often fully aware of what their data may be used for. Clearer info should be made available to t hem as well as more stringent regulation on law enforcement.|
|91||Testing companies should remind people before they test that law enforcement agencies check public databases. To obtain the details of a test result that is by choice private should only be through application to the courts|
|81||The only worry I have is that can be a slippery slope and we need to ensure that DNA is used for the greater good. I would not want to see insurance companies use it for denying health coverage - so regulation is really important.|
|139||There needs to be control over who can do this, and the powers they have to use the information. No one should have the powere to make unreasonable demands on the person who was tested|
|71||I don't know what the current regulations are in any jurisdictions.|
|232||I have been very conflicted about this. I think I would feel better if there were regulations in place.|
For & Against
|17||Adoptees and donor conceived are already using the information, violent crime, murder victims I believe can be beneficial for our community.|
|299||Perhaps the advent of DNA tests will make people think before they commit crimes. I am all for using results to prosecute any criminals. While I have helped adoptees find their birth families I do have concerns about the invasion of birth parents’ privacy. Adoptees have a right to know but not necessarily the right to a relationship. By giving them life parents have done the most loving thing possible, and I feel that adoptees should respect that decision. I strongly feel sperm donors should be protected—they did this willingly, not to have a child of their own, but to give others the possibility of having children.|
|389||Q3. I'm not sure what legislation is in force in different countries - DNA tests for genealogical purposes is a global thing with global relatives. The police/LE clearly needs to understand what rules apply and equally important how genetic genealogy and genealogy works. They can't hire any 'facebook genealogist' that volunteers.|
Q8 - multiple companies, multiple test types, mutliple relatives - started in December 2010.
I have anonymized several family members alrady (as some people gladly take whatever they find i match lists and put on Geni and WikiTree and Ancestry 'as you match my friend'), after the Golden State Killer-case I anonymize my American relatives that I manage at Gedmatch. I would firmly resist a free global use by LE.
I firmly disagree with the saying 'if you have nothing to hide you'll welcome it' . they say the same about the legislation on 'LE listening to phone conversations and reading emails of everyone to prevent terrorism'.
|249||I think that the concerns about Gedmatch, specifically, are overblown. The proverbial 'cat' is out of the bag with respect to DNA research.|
|70||DNA test results have been used for years for purposes other than genealogy if you count adoption. Adoptees aren't really doing genealogy in the way that genealogists are as their search is basically limited to identifying very close relatives and they have no family trees. I totally support their right to find their birth families. As an active genealogist, I find it annoying when they don't identify themselves upfront as adoptees. It would save me a lot of time writing about the 3rd great-grandparents that I think we share and are obviously of no interest to them. I would like all kits labelled as to their purpose: serious genealogy, vague curiosity about ethnicity, adoption search, law enforcement search etc. We're using the same tools for different purposes..|
|246||Fabulous new tool for fighting crime!|
|213||Given that my cousin’s wife was at school with the victim of the criminal mentioned and the relief of the year that he has now been caught it would be worthwhile to give relatives and associates peace.|
|39||I haven't been a victim of a violent crime, but we were robbed 3 times in one house we lived in and no one was caught, so I'm happy for the police to have the ability to use DNA to identify criminals. And for identifying unidentified bodies.|
|212||I would be concerned if insurance companies used dna databases, but not law enforcement if a serious crime is committed or for identification purposes. Perhaps for people who are contemplating serious crimes the knowledge that this is a line of enquiry may act as a deterrent. The golden state killer may have stopped because as a police officer he was aware of advances in dna technology. In my work I once partnered a college to run a CSI course for young people with criminal records and it was effective in making them think about what they were doing, how likely it was they would be caught. So not only should genealogy dna databases be used, they should shout it from the rooftops.|
|308||I've taken all 5 major tests (23andMe, Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, LivingDNA) and have put my DNA on GEDMATCH, dna.land and OpenSNP. I am also active contributor to WikiTree. I'm adopted and I feel like all adoptees have the right to know about their heritage. For violent crime, I welcome any use of my DNA if it helps bring a victim or their family some peace.|
|113||If a person has something to hide then I guess that person would be against Law enforcement people using theirs or family members DNA. I have nothing to hide and if a family member was to commit a violent crime I would hope they would be caught and dealt with the consequences of their actions|
|175||If I was murdered I would want all resources to be available to law enforcement, including DNA test results even if specific consent for that use had not been given.|
|274||If people put their GEDMatch data online for the World to see, then it is reasonable for law enforcement to use it. Very different than having genetic data held by a private concern where the data is protected.|
|144||If you are a law abiding person, you have nothing to fear. I am against sperm donors finding their offspring as the 'real' father is the person who brought them up & loved them. Adoption is different as the birth parent may have been forced to give up the child.|
|135||If you have nothing to hide then why worry.|
|32||In regards to regulations, Gedmatch’s disclaimers and warning etc and their upload options (self, guardian of DNA owner, etc) seem sufficient and comprehensive.|
DNA used to catch criminals of non-violent crimes is also as important. Victims of non-violent crimes have still been violated in some way and the perpetrators should be caught.
I would like to see more time, effort and $ invested in identifying Jane and John Doe’s. Giving closure to relatives.
Thx for the opportunity to comment. I hope the survey results reach people who can change laws and make a difference. :)
|273||Information is power. Are street cameras a violation of privacy. It depends on who has access to the pictures. They could be used to suppress movement of citizens if only the government has access. They could be valuable to individuals to determine weather conditions or congestion or disorder or .... before one ventures out. It depends on who controls or shares access to the pictures. Same with DNA databases. It depends on access to the results. If it is to be restricted, to whom, by whom and for what purposes? Free flow has the can empower us all. Controlled access can enslave us all. Balance points????|
|184||It is likely that we are just at the start of the DNA Journey. There is an inevitability about us finding more and different ways of capturing, analysing and using human DNA for all sorts of purposes. Law Enforcement will be just another albeit important use alongside Medical (including research), Authentication/ verification, dietary identification/help, and of course new genealogy uses.|
|205||Thanks Maurice for asking these questions, especially through the many Facebook groups I’ve seen it on. I am a NZ’er though currently living in Scotland.|
I will be very interested to see the results which I hope you will also share.
I am very happy to see my DNA and other family members if it helps anyone find answers to finding their genetic family. If it also helps resolve unsolved murders, restores people to their family after war and other violent crime that’s fantastic.
|325||The use of the gedmatch site does not bother me - people must understand that there is no access to the DNA, just the match list - the rest must be the hard work of old fashioned genealogical family research.|
|193||This is a must if it helps to catch criminals and to identify people.|
|189||This issue will run and run - as it is like Rowe vs Wade and is a societal question. Use of DNA in medicine will help change the public's perception, but it is just a question of continual media exposure and repetition until folk realise that they can be de-anonymised.|
|288||When you put your DNA in Gedmatch it becomes public, so in my opinion anyone should be able to use it for crime or genealogy. If you have testing done with a company the results shouldn’t become public without the person’s consent. We need to be wary of abuse from people where medical results may determine who gets hired or what? It is a shame that some of this may limit families from finding each other and tracing more genealogical information so accurately.|
|84||With the use of any technology there are pluses and minuses. Each technology needs to have the shortcomings identified and safegurads developed around those shortcomings. This is the same situation with DNA results being aailable in the public domain (information and explicit agreement on how the data may be used) and the test limitations and any shortcomings becoming fully transparent.|
|4||If a previously unidentified rapist or murderer was in my family and it was only my DNA which helped identify them then I would be extremely happy about that. I would however, prefer that my consent to use my DNA was sought prior to it having been used for this purpose. All DNA testers should have the right to 'opt out' of their DNA being used for this purpose. Informed consent is vital.|
|253||If Law enforcement is going to use my DNA I would like to be notified. But if they are going to put a violent criminal in jail or bring closure to a family of a missing family member I am okay with them using my DNA.|
|344||Get notified/paid when my DNA is returned in a search result done by for profit firm (Ceci Moore) or law enforcement|
|243||I deleted all my accounts at Gedmatch because of the misuse of the data by people who are profiting from the use of genealogical data for other purposes.|