genomic privacy

Recent Articles

Cops Now Using Warrants To Gain Access To DNA Services’ Entire Databases

BY TIM CUSHING
TECHDIRT
Cops have discovered a new source of useful third-party records: DNA databases. Millions of people have voluntarily handed over personal information to a number of services in exchange for info on medical markers or distant family members.

Investigators are submitting DNA samples from cold cases in hopes of tracking down criminals who’ve managed to evade them for years. It has led to the closing of some cases, which is all agencies need to argue for continued access to DNA samples from millions of users. Continue Reading →

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The DNA database used to find the Golden State Killer is a national security leak waiting to happen

BY ANTONIO REGALADO MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

A private DNA
ancestry database that’s been used by police to catch criminals is a
security risk from which a nation-state could steal DNA data on a
million Americans, according to security researchers. Security flaws in the service, called GEDmatch,
not only risk exposing people’s genetic health information but could
let an adversary such as China or Russia create a powerful biometric
database useful for identifying nearly any American from a DNA sample. GEDMatch,
which crowdsources DNA profiles, was created by genealogy enthusiasts
to let people search for relatives and is run entirely by volunteers. It
shows how a trend toward sharing DNA data online can create privacy
risks affecting everyone, even people who don’t choose to share their
own information. “You
can replace your credit card number, but you can’t replace your
genome,” says Peter Ney, a postdoctoral researcher in computer science
at the University of Washington. Continue Reading →

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New federal rules limit police searches of family tree DNA databases

BY JOCELYN KAISER
SCIENCE
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released new rules yesterday governing when police can use genetic genealogy to track down suspects in serious crimes—the first-ever policy covering how these databases, popular among amateur genealogists, should be used in law enforcement attempts to balance public safety and privacy concerns. Continue Reading →

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The Future of Crime-Fighting Is Family Tree Forensics

BY MEGAN MOLTENI
WIRED
In April, a citizen scientist named Barbara Rae-Venter used a little-known genealogy website called GEDMatch to help investigators find a man they’d been looking for for nearly 40 years: The Golden State Killer. In the months since, law enforcement agencies across the country have flocked to the technique, arresting a flurry of more than 20 people tied to some of the most notorious cold cases of the last five decades. Continue Reading →

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It’s time to talk about who can access your digital genomic data

BY CURTIS AND HEREWARD
THE CONVERSATION

We are approaching a time when you might be too scared to have your genome sequenced.

Only last week, a US senator called for an investigation into the privacy policies of direct-to-consumer DNA companies. But this is only one piece of a puzzle that is about to get much more connected.

As with any kind of personal data there are a number of concerns regarding collection, transmission, storage and use. But unlike most other data, your genome reveals intimate information about not only you, but also the people to whom you are related.

It’s time to talk about who can access that data, how, when and why. Continue Reading →

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Ethical questions raised in search for Sardinian centenarians’ secrets

There is something like gold flowing through the veins of 100-year-old Maria Tegas, and everyone wants a piece of the treasure. The centenarian, who lives in a poor and remote area of central eastern Sardinia – in one of 14 villages known to geneticists and genealogists as the Blue Zone – has not had an easy life. Orphaned at the age of one, she remembers what it was like to go hungry, when homemade acorn bread was her main sustenance. As a young woman, she often walked 15 miles (24km) a day in steep and rocky terrain to bring food home to her six children. “We lived like birds in the sky,” she says in a tiny whisper of a voice. Continue Reading →

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Swedish politicians consider opening population’s medical-research DNA database for private insurance companies

BY RICK FALKVINGE
PRIVATE INTERNET ACCESS

Since 1975, Sweden has taken a DNA sample from all newborns for medical research purposes, and asked parents’ consent to do so for this research purpose. This means that over time, Sweden has built the world’s most comprehensive DNA database over everybody under 43 years of age. But now, politicians are considering opening up this research-only DNA database to law enforcement and private insurance companies. It was a treasure to the scientific community, at the same time as it held enormous privacy risks that were not foreseen at the time. Scientists desired to study Phenylketonuria (PKU), a hereditary metabolism deficiency that, among other things, turns the common diet-soda-sweetener aspartame into a lethal poison. Continue Reading →

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Kuwait makes DNA tests mandatory after Islamic State bombing

BY AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
INTERAKSYON

Kuwait’s parliament, reacting to a suicide bombing last week that killed 26 people, adopted a law Wednesday requiring mandatory DNA testing on all the country’s citizens and foreign residents. The legislation, requested by the government to help security agencies make quicker arrests in criminal cases, calls on the interior ministry to establish a database on all 1.3 million citizens and 2.9 million foreign residents. Under the law, people who refuse to give samples for the test face one year in jail and a fine of up to $33,000 (29,700 euros). Those who provide fake samples can be jailed for seven years. Parliament also approved a $400 million emergency funding for spending required by the interior ministry. Continue Reading →

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Ancestry.com can use DNA to target ads

BY PAUL ELLENBOGEN
FREEDOM TO TINKER

With the reduction in costs of genotyping technology, genetic genealogy has become accessible to more people. Various websites such as Ancestry.com offer genetic genealogy services. Users of these services are mailed an envelope with a DNA collection kit, in which users deposit their saliva. The users then mail their kits back to the service and their samples are processed. The genealogy company will try to match the user’s DNA against other users in its genealogy and genetic database. Continue Reading →

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