Quasi-Universal Forensic DNA Databases

Seumas Miller, Marcus Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


This article considers individual rights and fundamental tenets of the criminal justice system in the context of DNA evidence, in particular recent advancements in genomics that have significantly advanced law enforcement investigative capabilities in this area. It discusses a technique known as Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) which utilizes genomic data held by commercial direct-to-consumer ancestry and health companies to investigate the identity of suspects linked to serious crimes. Using this technique, even if only a small proportion of the population (e.g. 5%) has submitted genomic data to these companies, almost anyone in the population can be identified. We discuss this phenomenon in the context of the existing literature and arguments in relation to universal forensic DNA databases, as well as relevant recent developments in both liberal democracies and authoritarian states. We introduce the concept of a quasi-universal forensic DNA database and consider associated implications for the criminal justice system and society from the perspectives of privacy, the right not to self-incriminate, joint rights, and collective responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-256
Number of pages19
JournalCriminal Justice Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


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