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Maryland Bill on Forensic Genetic Genealogy

Lawmakers in Maryland are considering a bill that would bar law enforcement from using publicly available DNA databases to identify suspects, the Daily Record reports.

Maryland currently does not allow police to conduct familial searches using criminal databases, the Daily Record adds, noting that proponents of the bill say that law enforcement's ability to instead use public databases would be an end-run around that law.

Police in California last year used such an approach in the Golden State Killer case in which they uploaded crime scene DNA to a genetic genealogy site. With that, they homed in on a relative of their suspect and then their suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, himself, who they then arrested. Similarly, police in Washington State and North Carolina have also turned to genetic genealogy to find matches to crime scene samples to yield arrests.

However, this method has spurred privacy concerns as suspects are tracked down using their relatives' genetic data.

According to the Daily Record, Chevy Chase Village Police Chief John Fitzgerald says the bill is misguided as the approach "narrows the haystack so we can find the needle." He further argues that the use of such databases doesn't violate people's rights as they voluntarily uploaded their data.