Slash Boxes

SoylentNews is people

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday April 03 2019, @11:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the privacy-policies-are-for-suckers dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

FamilyTreeDNA Deputizes Itself, Starts Pitching DNA Matching Services To Law Enforcement

One DNA-matching company has decided it's going to corner an under-served market: US law enforcement. FamilyTreeDNA -- last seen here opening up its database to the FBI without informing its users first -- is actively pitching its services to law enforcement.

The television spot, to air in San Diego first, asks anyone who has had a direct-to-consumer DNA test from another company, like 23andMe or, to upload a copy so that law enforcement can spot any connections to DNA found at crime scenes.

The advertisement features Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, a Salt Lake City teen who was abducted in 2002 but later found alive. “If you are one of the millions of people who have taken a DNA test, your help can provide the missing link,” he says in the spot.

Welcome to FamilyTreeDNA's cooperating witness program -- one it profits from by selling information customers give it to law enforcement. The tug at the heartstrings is a nice touch. FamilyTreeDNA is finally being upfront with users about its intentions for their DNA samples. This is due to its founder deciding -- without consulting his customers -- that they're all as willing as he is to convert your DNA samples into public goods.

Bennett Greenspan, the firm’s founder, said he had decided he had a moral obligation to help solve old murders and rapes. Now he thinks that customers will agree and make their DNA available specifically to help out.

Original Submission

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 4, Informative) by AthanasiusKircher on Thursday April 04 2019, @01:56AM (2 children)

    by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Thursday April 04 2019, @01:56AM (#824330) Journal

    Forget about "nearby" relatives. DNA matching has gotten good enough to identify matches even out to fourth or fifth cousins, which (depending on the size of your family) could encompass tens of thousands of relatives.

    At that point, it's only a matter of genealogy to begin to zero in. This procedure was perhaps first used in earnest in 2014 to track down relatives of a girl who had been abducted 30+ years before by the perpetrator of the Bear Brook Murders of New Hampshire. The lead genealogist estimated it took 10,000 hours of work to locate the relatives beginning with DNA database matches at the fifth-cousin level.

    Using pedigree triangulation techniques that have been honed in the past couple years (along with increased public participation in DNA databases), the same genealogist was able to find the father of the abducted girl last year with only 10 hours of research. These techniques have been used again and again in the past few years to establish links on cold cases decades old.

    Chances are you have a thousand or more relatives who could be connected to you already in DNA databases. And with various techniques those hits can be used to zero in on you even without close relatives in any database. With better DNA and genealogy tools, nobody is really anonymous anymore.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +2  
       Interesting=1, Informative=1, Total=2
    Extra 'Informative' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   4  
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by AthanasiusKircher on Thursday April 04 2019, @02:09AM (1 child)

    by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Thursday April 04 2019, @02:09AM (#824333) Journal

    And by the way, I myself had no idea how far this stuff had progressed (despite headlines about the Golden State Killer last year) until I listened to the Bear Brook podcast [] a few months ago. Absolutely crazy story about a cold case I had heard of years ago, which was finally solved. There's a lot in the later episodes about forensic genealogy and how it has advanced in leaps and bounds just in the past five years or so. Truly scary stuff to contemplate from a privacy standpoint.