CRF Blog

Your Relative’s DNA Could Turn You Into a Suspect

by Bill Hayes

In Your Relative’s DNA Could Turn You Into a Suspect, Wired magazine reports on the value of familial DNA searching for police investigations.

But the well-publicized success stories obscure the fact that familial DNA searches can generate more noise than signal. “Anyone who knows the science understands that there’s a high rate of false positives,” says Erin Murphy, a New York University law professor and the author of Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA. The searches, after all, look for DNA profiles that are similar to the perpetrator’s but by no means identical, a scattershot approach that yields many fruitless leads, and for limited benefit. In the United Kingdom, a 2014 study found that just 17 percent of familial DNA searches “resulted in the identification of a relative of the true offender.”

The technology’s limitations have the potential to cause real harm …. [more]