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Utah Effort on Privacy

Civil rights advocates and Utah lawmakers are exploring ways to protect the privacy of people who have undergone direct-to-consumer genetic testing as police increasingly turn to such databases to catch criminals, the Deseret News reports.

It notes that DTC genetic testing has enabled individuals to learn more about from where their ancestors come and health and other traits they themselves may harbor. At the same time, law enforcement officials have also turned to genetic genealogy approaches to try to home in on suspects through family members who may have undergone testing, leading to, for instance, an arrest in the Golden State Killer case.

But, as the Deseret News notes, this additional use of genetic data has raised concerns. "At first blush, many might think this is an exciting new tool to catch criminals, however, when you look at it more closely, it's actually a very profound violation of privacy," Connor Boyack, the president of Libertas Institute, a libertarian public advocacy group, tells it.

Libertas has been working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and others to draft a proposal that would prevent law enforcement from using consumer databases to conduct "dragnet-style" searches, the Deseret News adds. 

"We all want to hold criminals accountable, but in the balancing act of privacy and due process, the mass search of genetic databases is too problematic to allow," State Representative Craig Hall, a Republican who plans to sponsor the legislation, tells the Deseret News.