DOJ announces interim policy for use of forensic genetic genealogy
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DOJ announces interim policy for use of forensic genetic genealogy

The US Department of Justice on Tuesday released an interim policy regarding the use of investigative methods that involve DNA analysis and genealogical research to create leads for unsolved crimes.

The Interim Policy on Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching is composed of nine sections that will guide the use of forensic genetic genealogy by law enforcement. These sections outline the application of this policy, the types of techniques (STR DNA typing and forensic genealogy), limitations for the use of genetic association to make arrests, and case criteria needed to employ the techniques.

The policy has been issued primarily to provide internal guidance to the DOJ about the use of voluntary genetic genealogy websites and services. These services involve different DNA testing than the DOJ labs perform. If the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System does not result in a lead, law enforcement can turn to forensic genealogy by outsourcing samples for a comprehensive genetic profile. This profile can be submitted to genealogical services that use computer algorithms to evaluate familial relationships.

The DOJ stated that “personal genetic information is not transferred, retrieved, downloaded or retained by the genetic genealogy users—including law enforcement.” The use of forensic genealogy is meant to be reserved until other investigative techniques have been exhausted.

The interim policy “is designed to balance the [DOJ’s] relentless commitment to solving violent crimes and protecting public safety against equally important public interests—such as preserving the privacy and civil liberties of all citizens.”