Civil society stakeholder views on forensic DNA phenotyping: Balancing risks and benefits

Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2019 Nov:43:102157. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2019.102157. Epub 2019 Aug 28.


Forensic DNA phenotyping (FDP) is an umbrella term for practices seeking to infer likely phenotypic characteristics based on crime scene DNA. Specifically, it is intended to help criminal investigators find an unknown suspected perpetrator by providing information about what the suspected perpetrator may look like based on the analysis of DNA left at the crime scene. While many purport the usefulness of FDP in this regard, its probabilistic nature, as well as its ability to disclose information about an individual that may be considered private raises a range of ethical and social concerns. This paper reports findings from interviews with thirty civil society stakeholders across nine European countries. Our findings reflect the wide variation of views in Europe regarding if, when and/or how the technology should be used in the criminal justice system, and we illustrate this by presenting the different ways in which our participants strike a balance between the potential usefulness of the technology, and the various ethical and social considerations.

Keywords: Ancestry testing; DNA; Discrimination; Ethics; Forensic DNA phenotyping; Forensics; Interviews; Molecular photofitting; Privacy; Public engagement; Qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Law
  • Europe
  • Forensic Genetics / ethics*
  • Forensic Genetics / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype*
  • Probability
  • Risk Assessment