Solving Crimes While Protecting Genetic Privacy

Tuesday September 19th, 2023 // 2:10 pm - 3:30 pm // Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center, Centennial Ballroom

It has been nearly 40 years since DNA evidence became available to forensic investigators, and more than 800 cases have been solved with the help of forensic investigative genetic genealogy (FIGG) over the past 5 years. What have we learned, what are the risks and protections to consider, and what can we expect for the future?


This panel, moderated by Amy McGuire, JD, PhD, brings together experts from diverse disciplines to discuss various aspects of genetic privacy impacting the forensic DNA community. The first panelist, Ray Wickenheiser, DPS, will provide an overview of current procedures used to investigate crime using forensic DNA and discuss their privacy implications, including discarded DNA samples and application of employee databases and elimination samples. The next two panelists will describe different approaches for addressing privacy consideration. Bruce Budowle, PhD, will explore how informed consent practices can improved to respect autonomy and address privacy concerns of non-suspect individuals whose DNA is implicated in an investigation. David Gurney, JD, PhD, will examine state laws and proposed bills that attempt to address privacy concerns related to the use of FIGG, some of which regulate FIGG directly and others that have indirect—and presumably unintentional—effects on FIGG. Finally, Christi Guerrini, JD, MPH, will present data from an NIH-funded study of public preferences related to FIGG. She will report results from a survey with 1000 respondents to understand public acceptability of various applications of FIGG and its potential oversight, as well as relative preferences for features of FIGG practice associated with trade-offs between individual interests in privacy and societal interests in public safety and justice.


Amy McGuireChair

Director, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine

Amy McGuire, J.D., Ph.D., is the Leon Jaworski Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. She researches ethical and policy issues related to emerging technologies and innovative therapeutics, with a particular focus on genetics and genomics, neuropsychology, and the clinical integration of novel neurological devices.

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Bruce Budowle

Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki and Forensic Science Institute, Radford University

Dr. Budowle's current efforts focus on the areas of human forensic identification, microbial forensics, human trafficking, and emerging infectious disease with substantial effort in next generation sequencing. He is a Commissioner on the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

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Christi Guerrini

Assistant Professor, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy | Director of the Health Policy Pathway, Baylor College of Medicine

Christi Guerrini is Assistant Professor in the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Director of the Health Policy Pathway, at Baylor College of Medicine. At BCM, she conducts research focused on the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic technologies, including investigative genetic genealogy, with the goal of informing policy. 

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David Gurney

Assistant Professor of Law & Society and Director of the Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center, Ramapo College

Dr. David Gurney, JD/PhD is an assistant professor of Law & Society and Director of the Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center at Ramapo College. He is president of the Investigative Genetic Genealogy Accreditation Board and a board member of the Forensic Genealogy Special Interest Group of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

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Ray Wickenheiser

Director for the New York State Police Crime Lab System

Dr. Ray Wickenheiser is currently the Director for the New York State Police Crime Lab System, headquartered in Albany, New York. He is also a Past President of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) and the 2022 Briggs J. White Ward recipient . Ray has over 38 years of forensic science experience, with 21 of those as a Crime Lab Director in local and State Crime Laboratories. His areas of expertise include crime lab administration, quality management, forensic DNA, serology, hair and fiber trace evidence, physical matching and comparison, glass fracture analysis, forensic grain comparison and genetic genealogy. Ray is currently the Chair of the Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) for the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science.

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