‘It’s the Wild West’: Consumer DNA test cracks another cold case. Why are privacy advocates worried?


It was January 1980 when 21-year-old Helene Pruszynski was found raped, bound and stabbed to death in an empty field.

…Four decades later, her alleged murderer was finally caught because his distant cousin in Georgia uploaded her DNA to a genealogy website.

Fulton County used the same genetic genealogy tool to solve a cold case murder in 2019 and now the GBI, Atlanta police, and several other local agencies are also exploring the idea of using consumer DNA profiles posted on public websites to track down criminal relatives.

Ethics and privacy advocates say it’s time state lawmakers step up to protect consumers.

“It is the Wild West, a little bit,” [said Georgia State University ethics paw professor Jessica Cino]. … “Because there isn’t regulation. The difficult part is that law doesn’t really keep pace with technology, and this is a perfect example of that.”

Related article:  FamilyTreeDNA shares customers' genetic data with FBI. Founder calls it 'the right decision'

‘’You’re also uncovering somebody’s biological genetic history. So, yes, maybe a relative committed a crime, but you may have also just found out that that person is adopted or perhaps a parent had an affair,” Cino said. “So, there’s so many familial issues that kind of percolate out of this, that we haven’t really thought about and we don’t, again, have those guidelines in place to really regulate what’s happened.”

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