The Challenges of Forensic Genealogy: Dirty Data, Electronic Evidence, and Privacy Concerns
39 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2021
Date Written: April 10, 2020
While forensic genealogy continues to gain popularity as a law enforcement tool for solving cold cases, discrepancies in testing and evidentiary standards, as well as ethical and privacy issues, continue to plague the practice. This Article examines the investigatory role of genetic information and the various methods by which genetic information can be collected, used, or shared, including by law enforcement. In the era of Big Data, we must understand the limitations posed by the reliability and accuracy of information included in private and publicly available genealogy databases and how those limitations compete with the desire to implement valid machine learning algorithms in the fields of criminology and law. Realizing that advancements in science often outpace regulatory legislation, this Article addresses ways in which private and publicly available genealogy services can safeguard genetic information, including associated identifying metadata. Furthermore, this Article sets forth policy recommendations that consider the importance of enhancing investigative techniques while ensuring appropriate evidentiary standards and Fourth Amendment protections.
Keywords: forensic genealogy, forensics, forensic science, genealogy, ancestry, algorithms, big data, fourth amendment, law enforcement, data privacy, privacy, biometric, criminology, law, criminal justice, surveillance, genetic privacy, genetics, policy, legislation
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