Genealogy websites

Should law enforcement be able to use DNA data from genealogy websites for criminal investigations?

Have you used or would you like to use a genealogy website like GEDmatch, Ancestry.com or 23andMe? How concerned are you about privacy issues and sharing your DNA data online?

In “The Golden State Killer Is Tracked Through a Thicket of DNA, and Experts Shudder”, Gina Kolata and Heather Murphy write:

Genetic testing services have become extremely popular with people looking for lost relatives or signs of hereditary diseases. Most never imagined that one day intimate pieces of their DNA could be extracted to aid police detectives in criminal cases.

Even as scientific experts applauded this week’s arrest of Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, some on Friday expressed unease at reports that California detectives had used a public genealogical database to identify it. Privacy and ethics issues glossed over in the public’s rush to embrace DNA databases are now evident, they said.

“It’s really tough,” said Malia Fullerton, a University of Washington ethicist who studies DNA forensics. “He was a horrible man and it’s good that he was identified, but does the end justify the means?”

Coming so quickly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the Facebook data of more than 70 million users was shared without their permission, consumers are starting to realize that even their most intimate digital data – their genetic profiles – can be passed around in a way they never expected.

“There’s a whole generation that says, ‘I don’t really care about privacy,’ said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of The Innocence Project, which uses DNA to exonerate people who have been sentenced to death. wrong. “And then they do, once there’s a Cambridge Analytica. No one thought about the possible consequences.

Students: Read the entire article, then tell us:

– After reading this article, are you more concerned about uploading your DNA data to a genealogy website? Why or why not?

– How would you feel if your DNA was used to locate a relative who committed a crime? Why?

– Do you think what the detectives did in this case was ethical? Should law enforcement be able to use DNA data from genealogy websites for criminal investigations? Why or why not?

– Do you think genealogy companies should transmit DNA data to help law enforcement solve crimes? Why do you think like you do?

Students 13 and older are welcome to comment. All comments are moderated by The Learning Network staff, but remember that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.


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