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Universal DNA databases: A way to improve privacy?

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... The rising incidence of various forms of crimes and the struggle to grapple crimes has led to an adoption of several approaches towards criminal investigations. In the light of this, a body of evidence has demonstrated that forensic DNA databases decrease crime rates, assist criminal investigators to establish links between a particular suspect of a specific crime and other unsolved crimes, or can offer support to identify possible suspects while clearing other suspects in the early stages of an investigation especially in categories where forensic evidence is likely to be collected at the scene of a crime, for example, murder, rape, assault, and robbery [4][5][6][7]. The use of DNA in support of the investigation of crime is said to have been the most significant progression in forensic science since the introduction of DNA fingerprinting in the 19th Century [8]. ...
... A body of evidence has continued to emerge demonstrating that extensive forensic DNA databases decrease crime rates, assist criminal investigators to establish links between a particular suspect of a specific crime and other unsolved crimes, or can offer support to identify possible suspects while clearing other suspects in the early stages of an investigation especially in categories where forensic evidence is likely to be collected at the scene of a crime, for example, murder, rape, assault, and robbery [4][5][6][7]. ...
... As well, forensic DNA databases agree to a "conservation of resources", either by expediting the resolution of crimes or by accelerating the judicial processes [37]. Additionally, the DNA database confers enormous benefits in efficiently and effectively solving crimes, and exonerating the innocent, and the incredible power of DNA technology as an identification tool brought an incredible change in the criminal justice system [6,7]. Consequently, many countries around the world now operate forensic DNA-databases to identify owners of crime-related stains [38]. ...
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Forensic DNA databases constitute a central investigative resource in modern-day criminal justice systems, and agrees to a "conservation of resources", by expediting the resolution of crime and judicial proceedings via consolidating the evidence or introducing plea bargaining. Quite a number of reports have demonstrated the efficiency of the DNA database in assisting criminal investigation around the world. However, studies are still lacking in Africa, particularly Nigeria on the utilization of DNA database in crime investigation. Therefore, this article provides a first-hand report. In conducting this study, a comprehensive electronic literature search using PubMed, ScienceDirect, Google Scholar, and Google search for similar and related works were used, and all works meeting the subject matter were considered, including; reviews, meta-analyses, retrospective studies, observational studies, organization recommendations, and original articles. Remarkably, the peculiarity of the various forms of crime committed in Nigeria tends to involve or leave behind biological evidence at the scene of a crime. This biological evidence is a key sample for DNA profiling and subsequent storage in a forensic DNA database. Therefore, a National DNA Database has become very necessary in Nigeria.
... Countries with a higher level of autocratic control in the middle east have ventured toward a universal database, with public safety a desired outcome, as demonstrated by the city of Doha in Qatar. This increase in public safety may come at the expense of personal freedoms, although the point has been debated that rights are actually increased under a limited to STRs but widespread by population inclusion DNA databank [41]. ...
... Few appear to question the rights of an individual to use publicly available data to uncover information about their own past. They do however have serious reservations regarding permitting law enforcement to use this same information and techniques to investigate crime [41,52,87]. This increased scrutiny is appropriate to ensure information is being used properly, however the situation calls for education regarding what can and cannot be done, along with corresponding policy decisions to address concerns appropriately while enabling crime solving improvements. ...
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DNA databases effectively develop investigative leads, with database size being directly proportional to increased chances of solving crimes as demonstrated by a business case including a universal STR database example. DNA database size can be expanded physically by increasing the number and type of qualifying offenses, adding arrestees, or moving towards a universal database. The theoretical size of a DNA database can also be increased scientifically by using the inherent nature of DNA sharing by biologically related individuals by using an indirect matching strategy including Partial Matching, Familial Searching, and Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG). A new strategy is introduced using areas of shared DNA as a search key to locate potential relatives for further kinship evaluation. New search key strategies include Y-STR, mtDNA, and X Chromosome searching to locate potential relatives, coupled with kinship and genetic genealogical research, as well as expanded use of unidentified human remains (UHRs).
... The benefits of such public-private collaboration are evident in solving "cold crime cases", most notoriously the Golden State Killer who was tracked and sentenced to life imprisonment decades after the crimes took place by comparing DNA data from crime scenes with data files on a genealogy website that has over one million DNA profiles from commercial DNA companies (Guerrini et al., 2018). Dedrickson (2018) argues that such DNA databases can be effective in solving crimes, exonerating the innocent, and decreasing racial disparities in law enforcement, thus contributing to social justice and the common good, rather than being a type of "Big Brother" invasion of privacy. On the other hand, access to large facial topography and genetic profile databases could be misused by authoritarian governments to control their own people, potentially focusing on certain ethnic minorities, political movements, or other targeted populations (Wee, 2020; Fox Cahn, 2021). ...
... For example, people across the world are increasingly using private ancestry tracing services that collect and store DNA information, that is, highly sensitive biodata, even though government authorities may be given access to DNA profiles in these databases for criminal investigation needs, either voluntarily by the database owner or through a court order (see Jee, 2019). Dedrickson (2018) argues that the unfettered access state authorities have to private DNA profile databases may raise citizen resistance. However, Guerrini et al. (2018) note that many people simply choose to ignore or even support the state authority's invasion of DNA databases, if the purpose is to catch violent and dangerous offenders. ...
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Startups searching for a business model face uncertainty. This research aims to demonstrates how B2B startups can use business experiments to discover and validate their business model’s desirability quickly and cost-effectively. The research study follows a design science approach by focusing on two main steps: build and evaluate. We first created a B2B-Startup Experimentation Framework based on well-known earlier frameworks. After that, we applied the framework to the case of the German startup heliopas.ai. The framework consists of four steps (1) implementation of a measurement system, (2) hypothesis development and prioritization, (3) discovery, and (4) validation. Within its application, we conducted business experiments, including online andoffline advertisements, as well as interviews. This research contributes in several ways to the understanding of how B2B-startups can use business experiments to discover and validate their business models: First, the designed B2B-Startup Experimentation Framework can serve as a guideline for company founders. Second, the results were used to improve the existing business model of the German B2B startup heliopas.ai. Finally, applying the framework allowed us to formulate design principles for creating business experiments. The design principles used in the study can be further tested in future studies.
... The benefits of such public-private collaboration are evident in solving "cold crime cases", most notoriously the Golden State Killer who was tracked and sentenced to life imprisonment decades after the crimes took place by comparing DNA data from crime scenes with data files on a genealogy website that has over one million DNA profiles from commercial DNA companies (Guerrini et al., 2018). Dedrickson (2018) argues that such DNA databases can be effective in solving crimes, exonerating the innocent, and decreasing racial disparities in law enforcement, thus contributing to social justice and the common good, rather than being a type of "Big Brother" invasion of privacy. On the other hand, access to large facial topography and genetic profile databases could be misused by authoritarian governments to control their own people, potentially focusing on certain ethnic minorities, political movements, or other targeted populations (Wee, 2020; Fox Cahn, 2021). ...
... For example, people across the world are increasingly using private ancestry tracing services that collect and store DNA information, that is, highly sensitive biodata, even though government authorities may be given access to DNA profiles in these databases for criminal investigation needs, either voluntarily by the database owner or through a court order (see Jee, 2019). Dedrickson (2018) argues that the unfettered access state authorities have to private DNA profile databases may raise citizen resistance. However, Guerrini et al. (2018) note that many people simply choose to ignore or even support the state authority's invasion of DNA databases, if the purpose is to catch violent and dangerous offenders. ...
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News media companies and human rights organizations have been increasingly warning about the rise of the surveillance state that builds on distrust and mass surveillance of its citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic is fostering digitalization and state-corporate collaboration, leading to the introduction of contact tracing apps and other digital surveillance technologies that bring about societal benefits, but also increase privacy invasion. This study examines citizens' concerns about their digital identity, the nation-state's intelligence activities, and the security of biodata, addressing their impacts on the trust in and acceptance of governmental use of personal data. Our analysis of survey data from 1,486 Canadians suggest that those concerns have negative impacts on citizens' acceptance of governmental use of personal data, but not necessarily on their trust in the nation-state being respectful of privacy. Government and corporations, it is concluded, should be more transparent about the collection and uses of data, and citizens should be more active in "watching the watchers" in the age of Big Data.
... Although the value of forensic DNA databases is recognized widely by criminal justice policymakers and legislators, there are academic, legal, and civil society groups that have reacted critically to the expansion of databanks holding genetic material for criminal investigation purposes and as such different views on the capabilities, benefits, and risks of forensic DNA profiling and forensic DNA database circulate within modern societies [3,15,18]. Supporters of the expansion of forensic DNA testing in the criminal justice system invoke its capacity to serve as a valuable law enforcement tool, namely by improving efficiency in fighting crime, helping in the prevention of miscarriages of justice and deterrence of criminal activity, which is, in turn, expected to reduce crime and increase public safety and security [19,5]. Critics argue, however, that operating forensic DNA databases carries potential threats to the protection of a range of human rights, particularly as concerns our freedom, autonomy, privacy, moral and physical integrity, and the presumption of our innocence; and the expansion of DNA databases might be perceived by the general population as an excessive form of state control [5,20,21]. ...
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One prominent aspect of forensic deoxyribonucleic acid testing is the establishment and expansion of centralized national forensic DNA databases and body of evidence have continued to emerge, demonstrating the extensive efficiency and effectiveness of the DNA database in assisting criminal investigation globally. Therefore, the present study aimed to examine public awareness on Forensic DNA Database and the willingness for storage of DNA profiles. The design used in this study is the survey research design and the sample size of this study was a total number of five hundred University of Benin students drawn from our population for empirical investigation. The study adopted descriptive statistics which involves the use of frequency and percentage. The result of this study revealed that majority of the respondent demonstrated an adequate level of awareness and knowledge (71.2%), showed good knowledge on the function of a national forensic DNA database (54.4%), demonstrated increased level of awareness and knowledge on the benefit of a national forensic DNA database (44.8%), and revealed that 422 (84.4%) were willing for the storage of their profiles in the national forensic DNA database.The study also observed that a vast proportion of the respondents indicated that fear of violation of individual’s privacy was the only barrier they considered for the storage of DNA profiles in the National Database and our observations provides a good a basis for reviewing and implementing policies that find a reasonable balance based on the creation of moral and ethical spectrum involving professionals in the area of forensics, law enforcement and the public, in particular, social groups which are less involved in genetics.
... Esta es una idea antigua que ya surgió cuando se creó el primer banco de datos policial basado en el DNA (Krimsky y Simoncelli) y es un anhelo de ciertos colectivos policiales y políticos. Evidentemente existen posiciones contrapuestas y el debate está servido (Dedrickson 2018;Smith 2018;Joly et al. 2019). En un mundo en constante evolución y con un desarrollo tecnocientífico cada vez más veloz, la consolidación de la forensia en la Administración de la Justicia plantea dificultades teóricas que deben resolverse con la participación de los ámbitos tecnocientífico, político, económico, social y por supuesto jurídico. ...
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RESUMEN: Recientemente ha aparecido una nueva forma de identificar sospechosos mediante el DNA, útil cuando los procedimientos estándar no dan resultado. Se trata de la búsqueda familiar de largo alcance, que ha permitido resolver casos abiertos. El objetivo de este artículo es mostrar, de manera concisa y clara, en que consiste este nuevo procedimiento. En líneas generales, se trata de extraer nuevamente DNA del sospechoso a partir muestras biológicas que se conserven. Hay que obtener su perfil genético de manera que sea compatible con los existentes en los bancos de datos usados para construir genealogías. Se debe introducir el perfil del sospechoso en dichos bancos y buscar si parte del mismo coincide con el de alguna persona. Si es así, seguramente se trata de un familiar lejano. Se busca el antepasado común y a partir de él se reconstruye el árbol genealógico familiar hasta los descendientes actuales. Entre ellos estará el sospechoso, que podrá ser identificado aplicando diferentes técnicas de filtraje. PALABRAS CLAVE: DNA, marcadores genéticos, perfil genético, bancos de datos, casos abiertos, búsqueda familiar, genealogía genética. TITLE: LONG-RANGE FAMILIAL SEARCH: ANOTHER APPROACH TO DETECT SUSPECTS BASED ON DNA ABSTRACT: A new procedure to identify suspects by means of DNA has recently emerged, useful when standard procedures fail. It is called the long-range familial search, which has allowed to solve cold-cases. The objective of this article is to present, in a concise and clear way, this new procedure. In general terms, it consists of extracting again the suspect's DNA from biological samples that are preserved. It is necessary to obtain the genetic profile, but compatible with those existing in the databanks used to build genealogies. The suspect's profile must be introduced in these data banks and to find out
... Indeed, the biases, ethical problems and invasions of privacy that the armoury of investigative methods present have been used to bolster the arguments for universal databasing. It has been argued that universal databases would be fairer to all citizens than the current discriminatory investigative databases, would aid exonerations of innocent people, would deter crime and would eliminate the invasion of privacy represented by mass-screens (or 'dragnets') and familial searching [73]. The rise of investigative genetic genealogy and the use (and abuse) of publicly accessible genetic data by law enforcement has been used to further strengthen arguments in favour of universal forensic databases [74]. ...
Article
In his famous 1972 paper, Richard Lewontin used ‘classical’ protein-based markers to show that greater than 85% of human genetic diversity was contained within, rather than between, populations. At that time, these same markers also formed the basis of forensic technology aiming to identify individuals. This review describes the evolution of forensic genetic methods into DNA profiling, and how the field has accounted for the apportionment of genetic diversity in considering the weight of forensic evidence. When investigative databases fail to provide a match to a crime-scene profile, specific markers can be used to seek intelligence about a suspect: these include inferences on population of origin (biogeographic ancestry) and externally visible characteristics, chiefly pigmentation of skin, hair and eyes. In this endeavour, ancestry and phenotypic variation are closely entangled. The markers used show patterns of inter- and intrapopulation diversity that are very atypical compared to the genome as a whole, and reinforce an apparent link between ancestry and racial divergence that is not systematically present otherwise. Despite the legacy of Lewontin's result, therefore, in a major area in which genetics coincides with issues of public interest, methods tend to exaggerate human differences and could thereby contribute to the reification of biological race. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Celebrating 50 years since Lewontin's apportionment of human diversity’.
... Some authors have suggested to implement a universal population-wide DNA database (which includes every citizen), because this will result in fewer privacy concerns, compared with both forensic familial testing 59 and compared with IGG. 60 Indeed, a survey study of almost 1.600 respondents showed that law enforcement access to a universal database was regarded as being less intrusive compared with accessing a database of a DTC company. 39 Arguments in favour of a universal database are that it is not racially biased, are more effective, have fewer privacy concerns, that potential family ties are not disclosed (and are not needed to chase, because everyone is in the database), and that it does not include other highly sensitive information (because it uses forensic STR instead of genealogical SNP profiles). ...
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Over 30 million people worldwide have taken a commercial at-home DNA test, because they were interested in their genetic ancestry, disease predisposition or inherited traits. Yet, these consumer DNA data are also increasingly used for a very different purpose: to identify suspects in criminal investigations. By matching a suspect’s DNA with DNA from a suspect’s distant relatives who have taken a commercial at-home DNA test, law enforcement can zero in on a perpetrator. Such forensic use of consumer DNA data has been performed in over 200 criminal investigations. However, this practice of so-called investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) raises ethical concerns. In this paper, we aim to broaden the bioethical analysis on IGG by showing the limitations of an individual-based model. We discuss two concerns central in the debate: privacy and informed consent. However, we argue that IGG raises pressing ethical concerns that extend beyond these individual-focused issues. The very nature of the genetic information entails that relatives may also be affected by the individual customer’s choices. In this respect, we explore to what extent the ethical approach in the biomedical genetic context on consent and consequences for relatives can be helpful for the debate on IGG. We argue that an individual-based model has significant limitations in an IGG context. The ethical debate is further complicated by the international, transgenerational and commercial nature of IGG. We conclude that IGG should not only be approached as an individual but also—and perhaps primarily—as a collective issue.
... 4 These universal databases promise to yield greater investigative and deterrent capacity, reduce racial/ethnic polarization, 5 and in the presence of strict legal safeguards, even better privacy protection than the present DNA collection and retention regimes. 6 A renewed call for the creation of universal databases was made in 2018 with the challenge, 'Is it time for a universal genetic forensic database?' 7 The topic has become a subject of debate, especially in the United States, 8 and its theoretical application has been evaluated in Australia. 9 But there is a dearth of research about the topic in Europe, where it is treated almost as a taboo. ...
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Universal forensic DNA databases are controversial privacy-wise given their omnibus scope of incorporating DNA profile data of the entire population into the system. Following the landmark decision of the European Court of Human Rights on the retention of DNA profiles in S. and Marper v. the United Kingdom, two differing opinions emerged on its application to universal databases: their acceptability and illegality. This paper makes use of the elements of the right to respect for private life (Article 8 ECHR), distilled from the Court’s jurisprudence involving collection and retention of DNA profile data, in the form of tests—preliminary interference, legality, legitimate purpose, and proportionality—in assessing the feasibility of establishing population-wide DNA databases in Europe.
Article
The objective of the study was to pre-evaluate the applicability of gender-specific nucleotide sequences in human neuroligin genes as alternative DNA markers of sex. A new polymorphic locus based on NLGNX and NLGNY genes was proposed to establish the sex attribute of human biomaterials. The significant difference in the location of these loci relative to the pseudoautosomal region (PAR), as well as the combination of different types of polymorphism on the one hand, and the possibility of using gender-specific primers «in one assay» on the other hand, warrants their use as an additional marker of human sex attribute, including utilization as part of systems for DNA registration in the population. The introduction of a new polymorphic locus based on the NLGNX and NLGNY genes will make it possible to reliably identify the sex attribute of biological material recovered from crime scenes.
Article
Familial DNA "searches" occur when investigators find a partial match between a crime scene evidence profile and a person in a DNA database, but where there is at least one locus where there is an exclusion. What follows is the investigation of near relatives of the excluded suspect. This investigative mechanism has been embraced by police services in Great Britain, and enthusiastically extolled by prosecutors in the United States yet criticized because of fears that it will disproportionately impact racial minorities and subject innocent members of the families of convicted criminals to "lifelong genetic surveillance."This article analyzes familial DNA searches under both Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and public policy/privacy criteria. Because of the tool's adaptability to proving innocence and exonerating the wrongfully convicted, the article proposes a qualified endorsement of this tool, with four restrictions on its implementation that are designed to respond to and address the privacy and racial disparate impact concerns overstated by its critics.
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We leave traces - skin, saliva, hair, and blood - of our genetic identity nearly everywhere we go. Should the police be permitted, without restriction, to target us and to collect the DNA that we leave behind? In a growing number of instances, the police, unburdened by criminal procedure rules, seek this abandoned DNA from criminal suspects in hopes of resolving otherwise unsolvable cases. Abandoned DNA is any amount of human tissue capable of DNA analysis and separated from an individual's person inadvertently or involuntarily, but not by police coercion. What are the consequences of allowing this investigative method to remain unregulated? In stark distinction to the growing body of commentary on the collection of DNA samples for state and federal DNA databases, little attention has been paid to this backdoor method of DNA collection.Deciding whether DNA might ever be abandoned is important, because abandoned DNA provides the means to collect genetic information from anyone, at any time. Criminal procedure law poses no restrictions on this kind of evidence collection by the police. Not only does the label of abandonment affect police behavior, it also raises basic questions about the changing nature of legal identity. How should we characterize the relationships between our physical bodies and our identities, now that nearly any body particle can reveal our genetic information? The final part of this Essay proposes first steps towards addressing the problem, but its primary task is to show the need to reframe the debate over covert involuntary DNA sampling and to make the case for genetic exceptionalism.
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M]ore than four times as much of the African-American population as the U.S. Caucasian population would be "under surveillance" as a result of family forensic DNA
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