Police in Washington County are running sketches of suspects through Amazon's facial recognition software, The Washington Post reports. AI experts told the Post that using a sketch could increase the likelihood of a false match, a sentiment which was echoed by Privacy International's Frederike Kaltheuner when contacted by Business Insider.
Rather, privacy concerns are greatest for databases where a person can upload DNA data and trawl for matches. Ever since the Golden State Killer suspect was identified last year, law enforcement has been turning to public DNA databases to solve cold cases.
FamilyTreeDNA’s Terms of Service and Privacy Statement have been updated to require law enforcement, as well as any authorized representative working on behalf of law enforcement, to register all genetic files through a separate process prior to uploading to the database.
The case of the Golden State Killer: how private and protected DNA data can be exploited in public databases Justin Sullivan/Getty Images When you mail your saliva sample to a company like 23andMe, Ancestry, Helix, or any one of a handful of current DNA testing startups , they run an analysis of the genetic data it contains.
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Colleen Fitzpatrick, co-founder of IdentiFinders, said she'd been working on the Fay case for months and finally got a break when one of the largest consumer DNA-testing companies, FamilyTreeDNA, opened its database to a free, third-party genealogy website called GEDmatch.
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The month before, the genetic genealogist had been hired by a forensic DNA company in Virginia called Parabon, to lead its new division devoted to long-range familial searching.
The new patent pairs facial recognition with products from Ring, a doorbell camera company that Amazon bought: the application describes a system that the police can use to match the faces of people walking by a doorbell camera with a photo database of persons they deem “suspicious.” Likewise, homeowners can also add photos of “suspicious” people into the system and then the doorbell’s facial recognition program will scan anyone passing their home.
Anyone can purchase a batch of profiles from a data broker and immediately have access to the names, contact information, identifying traits, and photos of millions of real individuals. In May 2017, Moll and Tactical Tech purchased one million dating profiles from the data broker website USDate, for around $153.
We project that about 60% of the searches for individuals of European-descent will result in a third cousin or closer match, which can allow their identification using demographic identifiers. We demonstrate that the technique can also identify research participants of a public sequencing project.
As the researchers go on to show in their paper, it is now possible to take DNA from a supposedly anonymous dataset, find matches in public genetic databases, and then work out the identity of the individual by building a family tree.
“Take home message: Your DNA can identify you whether you took or not a DTC test,” Yaniv Erlich, the lead author of the study, said on Twitter.
Already, 60 percent of Americans of Northern European descent — the primary group using the genetic-genealogy sites — can be identified through such databases whether or not they’ve joined one themselves, according to a new study.
GEDmatch, the database investigators used in the Golden State Killer case and subsequent others, does not offer DNA tests itself. To find out exactly how easy it is for genealogists and law enforcement to find genetic matches, Erlich and his team first analyzed MyHeritage’s 1.28 million–person DNA database.
In fact, according to new research led by Erlich, published today in Science, more than 60 percent of Americans with European ancestry can be identified through their DNA using open genetic genealogy databases, regardless of whether they’ve ever sent in a spit kit.