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Popular Ancestry Sites Being Mined By Cops For Dna Evidence


JAHS

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If you commit a crime don't be dumb enough to submit your DNA to a geneology site and hope that none of your relatives have done so either.

 

Years ago, New Orleans filmmaker Michael Usry's father gave a DNA sample to a Mormon Church-sponsored genealogical project. Its database was later acquired by the popular Ancestry.com website.
 
That led to Usry becoming a suspect in a cold case murder.
 
Although the DNA sample was listed as "protected" in the original Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation database, Ancestry.com handed over the sample to police last year in response to a court order, the New Orleans Advocate reports.
 
Using a technique known as "familial searching," Idaho Falls, Idaho police were able to hone in on the Usry family DNA as part of their investigation into the 1996 slaying of an 18-year-old woman.
 
Although Usry was eventually cleared of the crime, privacy advocates are horrified.
 
"The FBI maintains a national genetic database with samples from convicts and arrestees, but this was the most public example of cops turning to private genetic databases to find a suspect,"
 
"Ancestry.com and 23andMe, another popular genealogy site, both "stipulate in their privacy policies that they will turn information over to law enforcement if served with a court order," 
 
"In the United Kingdom, a 2014 study found that just 17 percent of familial DNA searches 'resulted in the identification of a relative of the true offender.'"
 
 
 
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Hmmm ... I'm somewhat of two minds about this.  This comes with the usual caveats: I am not a lawyer; anyone who is concerned about the privacy implications of such issues as this should contact an attorney who is licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the questions arise.  Now that we've gotten that out of the way [sigh! :rolleyes:] . . .

 

If a person voluntarily surrenders something, he usually surrenders a privacy interest in the thing surrendered, as well.  And if a contract I sign says, "We'll turn this information over to law enforcement if approached with a duly-authorized, properly-issued subpoena, search warrant, or similar instrument," the government's public policy interest in investigating crime and in prosecuting criminals probably outweighs my privacy interest.  Courts have upheld taking DNA from, say, a discarded cigarette butt or a discarded soda can.

 

On the other hand, I don't think a defense attorney who says, "Hey, my client's DNA profile on Ancestry isn't just garbage.  And besides, he surrendered it for the narrow purpose of connecting with his roots and relatives, not so the government could come pawing through his surrendered data any time it feels the urge" would be laughed out of court, either.

 

It's a brave, new world, folks.  Orwellian?  You decide! ;)

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I don't know how Orwellian it is, but we do have to be careful of the documents we sign or accept.  

 

On the other hand, I have shared my DNA with the ancestry.com site and I remain grateful for the service provided.  Further, I have no qualms knowing that my DNA can be searched by others or used for additional purposes.  When one does not commit legal acts what is there to fear?  

 

It is similar to the silliness of I saw about the government recording phone calls.  First, there are not enough trained individuals in the USA to review and listen to all those calls.  The only people that have anything to fear are those who are planning terrorist acts and are using their telephones.  

 

An innocent person has nothing to fear.  The risks for the guilty should surely cause fear and they should be prosecuted. 

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I don't know how Orwellian it is, but we do have to be careful of the documents we sign or accept.  

 

On the other hand, I have shared my DNA with the ancestry.com site and I remain grateful for the service provided.  Further, I have no qualms knowing that my DNA can be searched by others or used for additional purposes.  When one does not commit legal acts what is there to fear?  

 

It is similar to the silliness of I saw about the government recording phone calls.  First, there are not enough trained individuals in the USA to review and listen to all those calls.  The only people that have anything to fear are those who are planning terrorist acts and are using their telephones.  

 

An innocent person has nothing to fear.  The risks for the guilty should surely cause fear and they should be prosecuted.

 

:shok: :shok: :shok:

 

First you'd have to establish probable cause. The US Constitution isn't a warrant for a "Fishing Expedition".

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I don't know how Orwellian it is, but we do have to be careful of the documents we sign or accept.  

 

On the other hand, I have shared my DNA with the ancestry.com site and I remain grateful for the service provided.  Further, I have no qualms knowing that my DNA can be searched by others or used for additional purposes.  When one does not commit legal acts what is there to fear?  

 

It is similar to the silliness of I saw about the government recording phone calls.  First, there are not enough trained individuals in the USA to review and listen to all those calls.  The only people that have anything to fear are those who are planning terrorist acts and are using their telephones.  

 

An innocent person has nothing to fear.  The risks for the guilty should surely cause fear and they should be prosecuted. 

"Further, I have no qualms knowing that my DNA can be searched by others or used for additional purposes"

 

OK for you but they could get to one of your relatives through you: assuming you're OK with that.

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An innocent person has nothing to fear.  The risks for the guilty should surely cause fear and they should be prosecuted. 

 

Nope. I think it's been established over and over that innocent people are convicted more often than we'd like to admit.

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Nope. I think it's been established over and over that innocent people are convicted more often than we'd like to admit.

 

Have any ever been convicted using DNA evidence?  I was under the impression that it was DNA that got the innocent out of prison when bad jury decisions got them in.

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An innocent person has nothing to fear.  The risks for the guilty should surely cause fear and they should be prosecuted. 

Except that innocent people have been falsely convicted.  The risk is much lower than if one is guilty, but it is still there.

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Also, the DNA might not be used to falsely convict them but they can be falsely accused. Being falsely accused doesn't come without a price. For some people it can be a huge devastating price. 

 

From the OP:  

 

 

Although Usry was eventually cleared of the crime

 

I wonder how much he had to pay in legal fees, etc? How  devastating to his work and family life?

Edited by mtomm
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I have heard rumours that fake DNA can be made now...will try and find out if there is anything to that or it is just paranoia or false claims.

 

add-on:  here is an article making the claim, just realized what time it is...got to get to work:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/science/18dna.html

 

And this article is from 2009, wow! We've got to keep getting smarter and smarter. This is such a learning experience! Thanks for starting this thread.

 

Here is a bit more information that seems to clarify it more.  I'm still very uncomfortable with this.

https://www.genomeweb.com/applied-markets/ancestrycom-shutters-smgf-database-amid-murder-case-controversy

Edited by mtomm
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Just curious, how many innocent people have been convicted because of a incorrect DNA match?  I have not heard of that, but maybe you guys know of such a case?

 

I am quite aware that innocent people can be framed; that innocent people can be convicted; that innocent people can be wrongly accused.  I spent three months in a a Middle Eastern prison for just such a reason.  It was excruciatingly painful being in prison knowing that there was no grounds for having been convicted.  I am staunchly against the innocent being imprisoned and once determined they are/were innocent they should be compensated justly for the error of courts.  

 

Having said this and knowing better than most the issue of the innocent being put in prison, I stand by my earlier comments.  There is a vast difference between a corrupt system and a system that functions properly.  For the most part, the US system of laws functions.  Errors continue to be made and will continue to be made.  For the most part, don't do the crime unless you are willing to do the time remains sage advice.  

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In theory I agree, but we get into the fact that juries have about an 80% conviction rate while judges have about a 50% conviction rate. :o

 

That is for judges over all.  That's not the judge you described.  ( a judge that thought arrest equals conviction)

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...I spent three months in a a Middle Eastern prison.... 

Understood. I can't imagine what your Middle Eastern experience was like.

 

My experience was in North America, in the land of the free. And it involved solitary confinement for well over six months, plus additional time under other conditions, until those charges were finally dismissed.

 

We simply couldn't afford bail, and I was told the law of the fast didn't apply to such things (consider Isaiah 58), so I paced and waited for the evidence needed to overturn everything. For those interested in the conflict between bail requirements and justice, I suggest a review of this.

 

Based on my experience and the experience of others, I've been seriously considering launching a charitable foundation, based on the law of the fast, to help free others from similar conditions. I've talked to one brother, who works with prisons regularly, and another brother used to be an attorney. I even approached an LDS charitable foundation and a government official about it several weeks back. I intend to launch it in the very near future.

 

Added: If any wish to lend a hand as a volunteer in your area, please drop a line.

Edited by hagoth7
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