Tracking of America’s Golden State Killer raises ethical issues for DNA

Publication Date 
01 May 2018

NYT headline: The Golden State Killer Is Tracked Through a Thicket of DNA, and Experts ShudderUS police appear to have tracked down America’s notorious Golden State Killer because of a relative’s DNA on a commercial genealogical website.

US police uploaded the killer’s DNA profile for matching and were able to build a family tree from other DNA profiles on the website.

New Zealand Police do not use DNA records from private companies such as GEDmatch.

But the Californian case still raises many of the same ethical issues that Police face here in New Zealand.

On one hand, the Police appear to have caught a notorious killer.  On the other hand, they have opened the door to troubling legal and ethical concerns about how Police use innocent people’s DNA.

The New Zealand Law Commission is currently reviewing how Police use DNA.  The law that regulates how Police collect use and store DNA is over 30 years old, and the science has changed exponentially in that time. The Commission wants to hear from New Zealanders about what a simple, modern law regulating Police use of DNA should look like. It is collecting people’s thoughts and ideas to make recommendations to the Government for a better new law.

Image from: Brent Staples at the New York Times