James Pacer, James Hazell, Researcher discussed on Science Magazine Podcast


Now, we have James Hazell a researcher working on the use of DNA in forensics. He's here to talk to us about the case for a universal DNA forensics database on Sarah Crespi, high James pacer. Thanks for having me. Sure. So we don't have anything like this. Now, we have government databases of DNA, we have public databases of the a and private databases like ancestry or twenty three and me all with very different people inside of them and also different access rights. So how does law enforcement use these types of databases right now, but really depends on the type of database that you're talking about. We began writing this paper in the wake of the revelations surrounding the Golden State killer case where you might remember law enforcement used a publicly accessible genealogy website. And that really prompted us to take a look at the current practices. And we came to the conclusion that in essence law enforcement, essentially has a defacto universal database already when. You look at the forensic databases combined with all the public and private databases say find the Golden State killer. They pretended to be a consumer submitted the DNA and then found that relatives. That's correct. They didn't need a subpoena or warrant or anything like that to find this person's DNA. No, they did fo- completely without authorization as you mentioned simply by pretending that the DNA was there's and uploading it under the ruse that they were hoping to fill out their family tree. So to speak going back almost ten years. Now there have been op EDS. There was one of the New York Times. There have been policy papers journals addressing this topic and asking the question would universal DNA database for friends at purposes be better than you know, how law enforcement uses genetic data is the Golden State killer case really prompted you to resurfaces. That's what got us thinking about the issue. But not only that. But also, the rapid expansion of forensic wall enforced. Databases a lot of people might know of Kotas, but each state maintains its own forensic database, and they're even creating now what are called shadow databases that is profiles that might not meet the criteria for the nationwide system. But that law enforcement might wanna store locally this raises a whole host of privacy issues for awhile. It was people who were arrested and people who are in the prison system. His DNA profile is taken into the database run by the government. But now, it's swabbing people. They pullover in a traffic stop and then putting that into their local database. Yeah. We've seen anecdote will reports of someone might be stopped by police and then asked to voluntarily consent to provide a sample, and although it is in theory voluntary, you can imagine. There might be some coercion associated with that. This is a good description of the landscape right now of how the police law enforcement interacts with what DNA databases are out there. So what's the case for making? A universal one where everybody is in it. So in this article, we argue that if correctly implemented, a universal system would not only be a much more effective law enforcement tool and reduce the need to conduct these long range familial searches, but it also would be less discriminatory and more protective of privacy than the current system. And there's a number of reasons for that we at what do you mean by discriminatory, currently if you look at the forensic databases, they're predominantly lower income minority. Individuals that are in these databases that's likely why police had to resort to a resource like GD match in the Golden State killer case where you see that in terms of direct to consumer genetic testing databases databases that use that type of direct to consumer data. Those individuals are predominantly from hiring brackets and predominantly more white than your forensic databases, and I'll make it less likely to only be searching a certain swath of the public and also. So give law enforcement access to parts of the public that aren't typically in these databases one thing that really struck me about this was thinking about genetic profiles from ancestry dot com or twenty three and me,.

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