According to PC Magazine, more than 26 million people have taken DNA tests. Genetic testing kits from sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe help individuals and their families dig into their ancestry and heritage – but they may not be the only ones looking at the results.
The Department of Justice has issued guidelines on the use of forensic genetic genealogical DNA analysis and searching for investigative, scientific, or prosecutorial activities. Justice News describes the interim policy which takes effect November 1st:
As genetic genealogy websites become more popular and individuals continue to voluntarily submit their DNA or enter their genetic profiles onto publically available genetic genealogy sites, the more biological information there is to compare with DNA samples from crime scenes.
In essence, a DNA sample taken from the scene of a violent crime that does not match any samples available in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) will not generate a lead for law enforcement. FGG [forensic genetic genealogy provides an alternative option. However, FGG requires a type of DNA testing that Department laboratories currently do not perform, so the sample must be outsourced to a vender laboratory.
After the vender laboratory completes a more comprehensive analysis on the sample, the resulting genetic profile is entered into one or more publicly-available genetic genealogy services and compared by automation against the genetic profiles of individuals who have voluntarily submitted their own samples. The computer’s algorithm then evaluates potential familial relationships between the sample donor and the website’s users. If an association is detected, it generates a lead. Subsequently, law enforcement can use that lead to advance their investigation using traditional investigative and genealogical methods.
The personal genetic information is not transferred, retrieved, downloaded, or retained by the genetic genealogy users – including law enforcement. And before FGG is an option, all other available techniques, including a search of CODIS, must be exhausted.
Hat tip to BeSpacific