from the combine-with-automated-facial-recognition dept.
KOMO TV (Seattle) is carrying a story about unsolved "Cold Case" murders in Tacoma that occurred in 1986.
TACOMA, Wash. - Using cutting-edge technology not available until now, investigators have released composite sketches of two men suspected of abducting and killing two young Tacoma girls in 1986.
Police say they are determined to solve the two horrific murder cases, which have gone cold after three decades - and they are hopeful the new technology will help lead them to the killers.
There were no witnesses. But DNA samples were found. So how were the sketches made?
The "composite sketches" were generated by a computer based on a process called DNA Phenotyping which is the prediction of physical appearance, using information extracted from DNA which accurately predicts genetic ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape in individuals from any ethnic background, even individuals with mixed ancestry.
"These are composites much like a witness giving a description and a computer program making a sketch based on known appearance factors," Loretta Cool of the Tacoma police said in a prepared statement. "These composites will not be exact but the outcome is a visual reference that may look similar to what the suspects looked like in 1986."
The process was developed by Parabon Nanolabs and the process is explained on their web site.
How close are the predictions?
Parabon's website has some examples generated from DNA contributed by known volunteers. You can compare the sketches with photos of the volunteers and judge for yourself. Personally, I think Yolanda McClary's actual IMDB photo is virtually a dead ringer for the computer prediction.
Anonymity continues to die a little every day:
The physical traits predicted from genome sequence data may be sufficient to identify anonymous individuals in the absence of other information, according to a study set to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.
After looking for links between physical phenotypes and whole-genome sequence data for more than 1,000 individuals from a range of ancestral groups, researchers from the US and Singapore took a crack at predicting biometric traits based on genetic data with the help of a newly developed algorithm. In a group of de-identified individuals, they reported, the algorithm made it possible to identify a significant proportion of individuals based on predictions of three-dimensional facial structure, ethnicity, height, weight, and other traits.
"By associating de-identified genomic data with phenotypic measurements of the contributor, this work challenges current conceptions of genomic privacy," senior author Craig Venter, of Human Longevity and the J. Craig Venter Institute, and his co-authors wrote. "It has significant ethical and legal implications on personal privacy, the adequacy of informed consent, the viability and value of de-identification of data, the potential for police profiling, and more."
[...] [Genome] sequences [...] are not currently protected as identifying data under the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's Safe Harbor method for ensuring anonymous and de-identified patient information.
Previously: Creating Wanted Posters from DNA Samples
Related: EFF to Supreme Court: The Fourth Amendment Covers DNA Collection
Kuwait Creating Mandatory DNA Database of All Citizens, Residents--and Visitors
Massive DNA Collection Campaign in Xinjiang, China
Routine Whole Genome Sequencing: Not Scary?
The Associated Press and the Everett Washington HeraldNet carry a story about a 30 year old double murder solved using Public Genealogy Sites similar to the Golden State Killer story carried here on SoylentNews.
Deaths of two Canadian visitors shopping in the Seattle area were unsolved since 1987.
The deaths remained a mystery for more than 30 years, until DNA led to a major breakthrough. A genealogist, CeCe Moore, worked with experts at Parabon NanoLabs to build a family tree for the suspect, based on the genetic evidence recovered from the crime scenes. They used data that had been uploaded by distant cousins to public genealogy websites. They pinpointed a suspect, Talbott, a trucker living north of Sea-Tac International Airport.
Police kept him under surveillance until a paper cup fell from his truck in Seattle in early May. A swab of DNA from the cup came back as a match to the evidence that had waited 30 years. Before then, Talbott had never been considered a suspect. Days later he was in handcuffs.
This time the police used Parabon NanoLabs (more well-known for generating facial models from mere samples of DNA) to build a family tree of the killer by submitting the 30 year old crime scene DNA samples to multiple genealogy sites.
Results from those sites were combined by a Parabon genealogist to map the family of distant cousins found in those data bases. Police were then able to narrow down the list using other methods unmentioned.
Neither article mentions if any family members were stalked by police while being eliminated as suspects, or whether any samples were submitted by other family members.
A drop of blood left by a suspect at a crime scene is a treasure trove for forensic scientists. Genetic information extracted from such biological samples can be compared against DNA databases to see whether a sample's DNA sequence is a match for any known offenders, for example. To protect individuals' privacy, these analyses, known as DNA fingerprinting, are normally restricted to parts of the genome not involved in creating proteins. But in some countries, investigators hoping to narrow down their pool of suspects are allowed to identify certain protein-coding sequences that can help predict skin or eye color. And soon, scientists may be able to find out even more from an offender's DNA—including their age.
A new forensic approach analyzes the chemical tags attached to DNA, rather than genetic sequences themselves. These molecules, which can switch genes on and off, get added onto DNA throughout our life span in a process called DNA methylation. And because the patterns of DNA methylation change as we age, they could provide a good indication of how old a suspect is.
But this technique could inadvertently reveal a lot more about a suspect's health and lifestyle [DOI: 10.1016/j.tig.2018.03.006] [DX], raising tricky legal and ethical questions that may demand new privacy safeguards, scientists suggest in a commentary in the July issue of Trends in Genetics.
A brief interview with two of the authors is included in TFA.
Related: Better DNA Hair Analysis for Catching Criminals
Creating Wanted Posters from DNA Samples
The Problems With DNA Evidence
Study Predicts Appearance From Genome Sequence Data
GEDmatch: "What If It Was Called Police Genealogy?"
DNA Collected from Golden State Killer Suspect's Car, Leading to Arrest