One of the largest genetic testing companies says they have a "moral responsibility" to share their data with the police
And the question is not whether he is right (which also), but the price of that responsibility. Between '74 and '86, someone committed 50 rapes and 12 brutal murders in the northern state of California. Then it disappeared. He was called in many ways, but the best-known nickname was the Golden State assassin.
More than 30 years later, on April 25, 2018, Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, was arrested and accused of being the person behind that wave of savage crimes. And all thanks to a genealogy website.
The researchers, using various open-access genealogy databases, identified a relative of DeAngelo and, pulling the string, reached him.It is just one more of the long rosary of cases that have been resolved since Colin Pitchfork was sentenced on January 22, 1988 for a DNA test. But this has only just begun: Is it a "moral responsibility" for genetic testing companies to collaborate with the police?
There are companies that believe yes (and they are)
Begin your DNA journey ... to prison
FamilyTreeDNA Earlier this year, BuzzFeedNews revealed that one of the largest genetic testing companies was working with the FBI and had made its genetic database available to its agents to investigate cases of violent crime. It was a scandal, of course.
As seen in the case of the Golden State killer, police around the world have been using open genealogy databases for years, but until now no company was known to collaborate voluntarily with authorities to make genetic data available to them. of your clients.
Yes ... With the scandal, FamilyTreeDNA changed its rules and enabled an option that allowed clients to block access to their data by the FBI. "Users will have the option to opt out of matching matches related to accounts created to identify the remains of a deceased individual, the perpetrator of a homicide, or clarify a sexual assault," the company said at the time.
... but no However, the company does not seem to have it clear already launched a communication campaign that under the motto "Families want to know" gives voice to victims of kidnappings and murders to convince everyone to share genetic information is a moral obligation.
Moral responsibility. "There is more DNA available at crime scenes than any other evidence. If you are one of the millions of people who have had a DNA test, their help may provide the missing link, ”they explained. And the CEO himself noted that, in his view, "if FamilyTreeDNA can help prevent violent crime, save lives, or shut down families, we believe the company has a moral responsibility to do so."
The question of privacy. The FamilyTreeDNA case brings a huge number of DNA-related problems to the table that we have not been able to solve. The truth is that, beyond private companies, open genealogical websites already allow the identification of half of North Americans.
That is, it is likely that enough DNA to identify you is already on the internet even if you do not want to (or it will be available soon). And the legal, social and ethical situation that all this raises is, at least, tricky. Where does this leave the rights of individuals? Is it my feeling or do we always return to the eternal debate of security versus privacy?