As consumer DNA testing gains widespread popularity, so has law enforcement’s interest in leveraging genetic databases for criminal investigations. Consumer DNA testing products like 23andMe and Ancestry allow private individuals access to their genetic data on private databases. However, once coded, genetic data is free to be downloaded by users and uploaded to public databases. Police identify suspects by uploading cold case DNA to public genetic databases and find familial matches. If they identify a familial match, they narrow the field of suspects using traditional methods of investigation, which often includes extracting suspect DNA from a piece of their abandoned property. This note examines the Fourth Amendment privacy issues raised by this new investigative strategy and argues that the practice of using public DNA databases for familial search is protected under the Fourth Amendment’s Third-Party Doctrine. However, extracting DNA from abandoned property is outside the scope of an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy established in California v. Greenwood and may have Fourth Amendment protection.
THE GENETIC PANOPTICON: GENETIC GENEALOGY SEARCHES AND THE FOURTH AMENDMENT,
Nw. J. Tech. & Intell. Prop.