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Ancestry sites could aid criminal investigations

Luke Grant

Some law enforcement agencies are now using online genetic databases like Ancestry.com to assist them in criminal investigations.

Ancestry.com reportedly received 34 police requests for DNA searches in 2017,  predominately from America and Germany. This came after US police used a similar genealogy network to track down the alleged Golden State killer, who is accused of 12 murders and 50 rapes in the California area between 1974 and 1986.

Professor Dennis McNevin confirms many who provide a saliva sample and a subscription fee to these online websites could be inadvertently aiding authorities in their investigative pursuits.

“When we say police have access to these records, they aren’t given carte blanche access to look at any DNA profile,” McNevin explains.

“They’ll take DNA from a crime scene and they’ll submit it to these services just like any member of the population, probably under a false name.”

“All they get is the identity of the matches, in the same way as any member of the population could get a match back. But it’s just a lead, it’s not a definitive indication of guilt.”

The infringement of privacy that this potential process could facilitate has some civil libertarians worried.

Questions around whether authorities could obtain sensitive data without a person’s expressed consent have been posed.

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE:

Luke Grant
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