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Culture > News

The FBI and I: The FBI Is Starting to Use DNA Databases to Solve Crimes

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Have you ever wanted to find your long-lost cousin? Have you ever wanted to help the FBI track down criminals using consumer genealogy databases? Well, now you can do both! BuzzFeed News has reported that with the help of DNA Databases, the majority of Americans of European descent can now be genetically traced, and this has been linked to a greater ability for investigators to identify people who are suspected of crimes. 

It is an interesting concept that raises a lot of questions as well. There have been more than 15 million people who have purchased at home genetic testing kits that help reveal the make-up of their DNA, as well as giving them information about distant relatives. This increase in sales has been of great benefit to law enforcement. Although there are concerns with privacy, Buzzfeed News reported, “Family Tree DNA, one of the largest private genetic testing firms, has allowed the FBI to search its genealogy database, in essence, doubling the number of profiles authorities can try to match with crime scene DNA”. 

This is great for law enforcement officials because it allows them to use this genetic data to find relatives of suspected serial killers, rapists and other criminals in an attempt to solve cases that have gone cold for decades. These databases have millions of profiles and the majority of Americans of European heritage can be linked to at least a third cousin according to published studies. 


On the contrary, this immediately created controversial concerns about the importance of privacy among the users of these genetic databases. Many people and several genealogists were concerned with the fact that the company “had started allowing FBI access to its database in the fall of 2018 without first notifying its customers,” which prompted the company’s president to issue a public apology for improper communication of the situation in the work with the FBI. From the public perspective, it is understandable why there would be such a response. These databases include very private information about and DNA samples. So the public response is in correspondence to the severity of the issue. On the other hand, this data does give law enforcement officials an upper hand when it comes to making crime solving easier. The report states, “investigative genealogy has opened up an entirely new field of possibilities, one they say could prove as valuable in the effort to crack cold cases as the use of DNA-matching has improved significantly”. However, despite the advances and advantages, there are still many large DNA testing companies that do not allow law enforcement to use their databases for criminal investigations. Many of these companies’ “policies state that they would only provide law enforcement with information on their customers if severed a warrant or subpoena.” 

As great and innovative as these technologies are for the use of finding out family history and the makeup if individual DNA, many people are apprehensive to give up this private information. They use genetic databases to learn more about themselves and their heritage. They are not too fond of being subject to wide-ranging FBI criminal searches.

My name is Nedgie Paul and I am senior at Florida State University. I enjoy Pasta and expressing myself creatively through writing. I am a Commercial Entrepreneurship major with hopes of owning multiple companies in the future.
Her Campus at Florida State University.