DNA from Genealogy Websites Used to Track the “Golden State Killer”
Update, Friday, April 27, 1:24 p.m. ET: San Jose Mercury News identified the genealogy site used by investigators like GEDmatch, a free and open source service based in Florida.
Think twice before sending your saliva to businesses.
A suspected serial killer was caught when investigators compared his DNA to samples collected by a ancestry website.
Facebook is richer than ever, despite data privacy scandals
Services like 23andMe and Ancestry have become popular using DNA from users who want to learn more about their family history. But few believe that the DNA samples they send could be used by law enforcement.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was arrested by police on Tuesday. He would be the “Golden State Killer”, the author of 45 rapes and 12 murders in the 70s and 80s.
Obviously, if he’s guilty, this guy should burn in the hottest of hell. However, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the manner it was caught raises privacy issues.
Law enforcement compared a blood sample taken at a crime scene with the DNA of one of DeAngelo’s relatives, according to the report. Sacramento Bee. That’s right. He wasn’t even the one using the ancestry website – he was someone related to him.
This means you don’t even have to consent to having your DNA available to law enforcement.
The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office has confirmed that the BeeThe story of was accurate, but would not name the ancestry websites investigators used to track down DeAngelo.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” Deputy Chief District Attorney Steve Grippi said in a statement provided to Mashable. “We have given you as much information as possible so far. No further information on this will be provided.”
Spokesmen for 23andMe and Ancestry said the companies were not involved in the DeAngelo case.
The former said it is “our policy to resist law enforcement investigations to protect customer privacy.” Ancestry said it “will defend the privacy of its members and will not share any information with law enforcement unless required to do so by valid legal process.”
There are other genealogy websites that collect DNA, but 23andMe and Ancestry are the most visible of those services – and they absolutely receive requests for data from law enforcement.
Both publish transparency reports. 23andMe claims to have never shared genetic information with law enforcement. Ancestry says that’s not the case for the past three years, but shared data in 2014 with investigators investigating the murder and rape of a woman in Idaho.
Last year Senator Chuck Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission to see how the companies that collect your DNA store and share your data.
“Now this is sensitive information,” he said, “and what these companies can do with all of this data, our sensitive and deepest information, your genetics, is unclear and , in some cases, unfair and incorrect. “
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