Half of Brits OK with police using DNA supplied for ancestry analysis for crime investigations

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More than half of British adults (55%) believe DNA databases collected by private companies to analyze ancestry should be used in police crime investigations, found a YouGov survey, but only five percent have actually used such services to investigate their family history or health history and event paternity, writes The Telegraph.

Although there have been cases where police used open-source records to investigate suspects, DNA companies have refused to hand over user information. Unless a person is convicted of some 400 offences, the DNA data cannot be held by police databases indefinitely. The current national police database only has DNA information of some 5.4 million people, which means 60 million are missing.

Unlike the use of biometric facial recognition in police investigations, the use of DNA profiles by third parties does not attract as much controversy, users appearing more casual as long as it is used to solve crimes. More than half of respondents (54%) think DNA profiles should be used by counter terror services and by health services (52%). When asked about privacy companies’ access to DNA profiles, 82% were against it.

Canada, for example, has been using DNA searches of ancestry websites for almost two years to identify refugee claimants.

Last year, attention was drawn to the poor security of DNA databases which could not only compromise sensitive biometric data, but could also jeopardize national security. Without user consent, crowdsourced genetic ancestry service GEDmatch was used by California police to apprehend the Golden State Killer, as well as in other criminal investigations where the culprits were traced through their relatives.

Fearing a national security compromise, the Pentagon recently released a memo warning government personnel that if they shared their DNA profiles, the information could be used to track and monitor service members, and even compromise their careers.

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