Erin Murphy Quoted in Genetic Privacy Article

Erin Murphy Quoted in Genetic Privacy Article

Erin Murphy of NYU Law was recently quoted in a article on an ongoing murder trial that has the potential to set a precedent for how police will be able to use DNA results in their work.

The article, “A murder trial in Snohomish County will change genetic privacy forever,” details the ongoing trial of William Talbott II who is accused of murdering two people in 1987. DNA was collected at the time of the crime but genetic science wasn’t advanced enough to lead them to a suspect.

Then, last May, the Snohomish County Sheriff's office announced it had made an arrest. Mr. Talbot was convicted on DNA that law enforcement officers found at the crime scenes in 1987. To find him, police used a new forensic technique: genetic genealogy. The same science was used to identify Joseph DeAngelo, the suspected Golden State Killer.

To identify Mr. Talbott, Snohomish County Sheriffs teamed up with a company called Parabon NanoLabs. Genealogists from the company ran the crime scene DNA through a public DNA database called GEDMatch, which they used to identify two relatives of the person who left his DNA at the crime scenes in 1987. Investigators then built a huge family tree connecting the DNA from the original crime scene and found only one male relative, Mr. Talbott. Police verified the crime scene DNA was his by testing a cup he discarded, which opens a door to many questions surrounding DNA usage and privacy concerns.

Professor Murphy was quoted for her caution in using genetic tracking technology like GEDMatch. When you enter your DNA information into a public database there are no conditions on how that information can be used.

"If somebody hacks your bank account or your credit card — or even your email — you just change your account ... or your password," she said. "But you can’t change your genomic code.”

Read the full article here.

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