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Using Kin's DNA To Track Suspects

Publication Date: 
April 27, 2008
The Washington Post
Ellen Nakashima

Professor Henry T. "Hank" Greely is quoted commenting in The Washington Post about the growing practice by law enforcement of searching for next-of-kin DNA in order to convict criminals, and the concerns over how the right to privacy might be violated in the process:

Stanford University law professor Henry Greely estimates that at least 40 percent of the FBI database is African-American, though they make up only 13 percent of the overall U.S. population. That is because in an average year, more than 40 percent of people convicted of felonies in the United States are African-American, he said.

If the national database were used for familial searching, he said, and assuming that on average each person whose profile in the database has five first-degree relatives, authorities would be "putting under surveillance" roughly a third of the African-American population, compared with about 7.5 percent of the European-American population, he said.

"I don't think anybody's going to be falsely convicted," he said. "It's the time, hassle and indignity of being interviewed by the police. How much is that worth? How much does that cost a person? I don't know, but it's not zero."