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Investigative genetic genealogy: can collective privacy and solidarity help?

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • IGG involves genealogists working on behalf of law enforcement searching specific recreational DNA databases with unknown origin DNA from either unidentified human remains (suicides, missing persons, war cases) or from a serious crime scene in an attempt to identify the victim or a suspected perpetrator. Searching is long-range with the potential to find second, third or more distant cousins. The genealogist puts the matches into clusters based on shared matches and builds out family trees to identify the most recent common ancestors and then traces the trees down to the present in an attempt to identify the victim or suspect of interest. As de Groot et al explain, since the 2018 high-profile arrest of the Golden State Killer in the USA, IGG has been increasingly used in a number of jurisdictions.

  • At the same time, there has been increasing attention from social scientists in this space.

  • This is now changing, with bioethics expanding into the public health arena, as well as the planetary health arena. For example, by considering how biobanks contribute to environmental and social harms (see: Samuel, Lucivero & Lucassen. 2021. ‘Sustainable biobanks: a case study for a green global bioethics’ Global Bioethics).

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