How my research on DNA ancestry tests became "fake news"
july 2018 by jm
racism science fake-news conspiracy genealogy dna dna-testing
I was not surprised to see our research twisted by fake news and satire websites. Conspiracy theories are meant to be just as entertaining as they are convincing. They also provide a way out of confronting reality and reckoning with facts that don’t confirm preexisting worldviews. For white nationalists and racists, if test results showed traces of African American or Jewish ancestry, either the tests did not work, or the results were planted by some ideologically motivated scientists, or the tests were part of a global war against whites. With conspiracy theories, debunking is rarely useful because the individual is often searching for an interpretation that confirms their prior beliefs.
As such, DNA conspiracy theories allow white supremacists to plan new escape routes for the traps they laid for themselves long ago. With DNA testing, the one-drop rule—a belief made law in the 1900s that one drop of African blood makes one Black—becomes transmuted genealogically into the one-percent rule, according to which to remain racially white, an individual’s results must show no sign of African or Jewish origin. Through the genealogical lens, American white nationalists consider “one hundred percent European” as good results, which in turn substantiates their “birth right” to the United States as a marker of heredity and conquest.
july 2018 by jm
The brave new world of genetic genealogy - MIT Technology Review
april 2018 by jm
gedmatch genealogy dna police murder rape dna-matching privacy data-privacy
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.
april 2018 by jm
Your Relative's DNA Could Turn You Into A Suspect
october 2015 by jm
Familial DNA searching has massive false positives, but is being used to tag suspects:dna familial-dna false-positives law crime idaho murder mormon genealogy ancestry.com databases biometrics privacy genes
The bewildered Usry soon learned that he was a suspect in the 1996 murder of an Idaho Falls teenager named Angie Dodge. Though a man had been convicted of that crime after giving an iffy confession, his DNA didn’t match what was found at the crime scene. Detectives had focused on Usry after running a familial DNA search, a technique that allows investigators to identify suspects who don’t have DNA in a law enforcement database but whose close relatives have had their genetic profiles cataloged. In Usry’s case the crime scene DNA bore numerous similarities to that of Usry’s father, who years earlier had donated a DNA sample to a genealogy project through his Mormon church in Mississippi. That project’s database was later purchased by Ancestry, which made it publicly searchable—a decision that didn’t take into account the possibility that cops might someday use it to hunt for genetic leads.
Usry, whose story was first reported in The New Orleans Advocate, was finally cleared after a nerve-racking 33-day wait — the DNA extracted from his cheek cells didn’t match that of Dodge’s killer, whom detectives still seek. But the fact that he fell under suspicion in the first place is the latest sign that it’s time to set ground rules for familial DNA searching, before misuse of the imperfect technology starts ruining lives.
october 2015 by jm
Copy this bookmark: