jm + gedmatch   2

Antonio Regalado Twitter thread on genetic genealogy, DNA privacy, and total DNA de-anonymity
I used to know some technicians in the NYC Medical Examiner's lab. They had all been DNA typed (to detect accidental contamination). So, their little society was a picture of what is to come, of total DNA transparency.

They would do stuff like find out who stuck gum under the table. Also, who was peeing on the toilet seat in the bathroom.

So There’s a second technology at play: environmental DNA sampling. Once police get a name they tail the suspect and try to get some DNA he leaves behind. To make the match to crime scene sample. Police have gotten DNA from:
- a car door handle
- a straw
- a paper napkin

Imagine storm troopers of a repressive regime descending on a meeting place of the resistance. Just swab the whole place and find out who was there from DNA left behind.
Technically, total DNA de-anonymity is possible. Far as I know there’s no law, no protection, against identifying you from your DNA.

In crime cases, [this is] being done by “amateur” using a database (GEDmatch) that itself is highly informal.
privacy  dna  genetics  genetic-genealogy  gedmatch  law  transparency 
7 weeks ago by jm
The brave new world of genetic genealogy - MIT Technology Review
The combination of DNA and genealogy is a potentially a huge force for good in the world, but it must be used responsibly. In all cases where public databases like GEDmatch are used, the potential for good must be balanced against the potential for harm. In cases involving adoptee searches, missing persons, and unidentified bodies, the potential for good usually markedly outweighs the potential for harm.

But the situation is not so clear-cut when it comes to the use of the methodology to identify suspects in rape and murder cases. The potential for harm is much higher under these circumstances, because of the risk of misuse, misapplication or misinterpretation of the data leading to wrongful identification of suspects. The stakes are too high for the GEDmatch database to be used by the police without oversight by a court of law. 

However, we are not looking at a dystopian future. In the long run the public sharing of DNA data, when done responsibly, is likely to have huge benefits for society. If a criminal can be caught not by his own DNA but through a match with one of his cousins he will be less likely to commit a crime in the first place. With the move to whole genome sequencing in forensic cases in the future, it will be possible to make better use of genetic genealogy methods and databases to identify missing people, the remains of soldiers from World War One and World War Two as well as more recent wars, and casualties from natural and manmade disasters. We will be able to give many more unidentified people the dignity of their identity in death. But we each control our own DNA and we should all be able to decide what, if anything, we wish to share.
gedmatch  genealogy  dna  police  murder  rape  dna-matching  privacy  data-privacy 
april 2018 by jm

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