Genetic forensics solves crimes, raises privacy concerns

What rights does your DNA have?

By Erica Hernandez - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - As more law enforcement agencies across the country use genetic genealogy companies to solve crimes, it is also bringing up privacy concerns.

"DNA tells us about all kinds of things," St. Mary's University professor of Law Gerald Reamey said. "It tells us about our ancestry, but it tells us about medical conditions and other information that we'd like to keep private."

Besides what the information can reveal, the way law enforcement is getting this information could be a problem.

While genetic genealogy is not covered by the Fourth Amendment, it does guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Family Tree DNA founder and president Bennett Greenspan, who has been criticized for allowing the FBI to test DNA samples, sees the issue differently.

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"I still believe it's the right thing for our society and our country," Greenspan said. 

Family Tree DNA does have an option that would allow customers to opt out of having their DNA be a part of the database that law enforcement tap into. So far more than 90% have opted in.

"If people don't want to help law enforcement catch rapists and killers, but if you do, we've created a platform that allows for that," Greenspan said.

Overall, your DNA does not have that many rights, but that could change in the future. 

"We're still a little bit too early in the development of this technique to really have that public clamor for privacy protections," Reamey said. "I would expect to see some action from the legislature in the future."

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