Recommended Reading: Judy Russell on “The Price of Sharing”

Today, Judy Russell shared her perspective on genetic privacy and the use of genealogy databases by law enforcement. No matter where you stand on the issue, I recommend that you read her post by clicking here.

Another consideration that she didn’t mention in her article is that the DNA found at a crime scene isn’t necessarily that of the criminal. Consider the case of Lukis Anderson.  To a jury, he’s not a very sympathetic character: a petty criminal, homeless, alcoholic … and black. (Let’s face it: America still harbors racists.)  Anderson’s DNA was found on the fingernails of a wealthy investor who was killed in his home.  His arrest for murder seemed like a slam dunk.

There’s only one problem with the evidence against Anderson: he had never met the victim and had never been to the crime scene.  What happened to Anderson is called “secondary transfer”.  Someone touches you then later touches an object at a crime scene, and your DNA falsely implicates you.

Genetic genealogy and law enforcement will be grappling with the implications of familial searching for years to come.  I won’t be surprised if the Golden State Killer case ends up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, if you are concerned about your own privacy or that of your family, your only recourse at the moment is to remove your data from the matching databases at GEDmatch and possibly Family Tree DNA.  (The Terms of Service at the other companies prevent law enforcement uses.)

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