The FBI is permitting police investigators to pursue some criminal suspects by tracking the DNA of close relatives who have been convicted of other offenses, reports USA Today. A study in the journal Science concluded that such “partial-match searches” could greatly increase the number of cases solved through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The system matches genetic profiles drawn from blood, semen, and other forensic evidence to a database of convicted criminals and other arrestees. Privacy activists argue that it places innocent relatives of criminals and non-relatives with similar DNA profiles under a form of genetic surveillance.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey says the FBI has given him the name and other identifying information of an Oregon felon whose DNA profile shows that he is a “likely” close relative of a man who raped a woman in Denver in 2003. Morrissey plans to use the information as an “investigative lead” to identify the suspect. Stanford law Prof. Henry Greely says the practice is likely to meet some resistance. “There’s an immediate ‘yuck factor’ to your being caught because your brother did something wrong,” he says. “For the public, this will take a while to settle out.”