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Police Increasingly Solving Cases With Ancestry DNA Testing - Carlos Gamino
News from Attorney Carlos Gamino

Police Using Ancestry DNA to Solve Crimes

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By Carlos Gamino

So many people have tested with ancestry DNA kits – not just from Ancestry.com, but from similar companies such as 23AndMe, My Heritage and National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 – that police can track virtually anyone of European descent in the U.S. today.

More than a dozen cases have been solved that way, and it looks like there are more on the way.

One of the most notable cases involved the “Golden State Killer,” Joseph James DeAngelo, just a few months ago. Investigators matched DNA they had from crime scenes – some decades old – to the online database GEDmatch. With the data they found, they zeroed in on DeAngelo’s family tree, and then searched through possible suspects with what they knew.

“Each individual in the database is like a beacon of genetic information, and this beacon illuminates hundreds of individuals — distant relatives connected to this person via their family tree,” Yaniv Erlich, the chief science officer of the genetics company MyHeritage and lead author of the Science study, told the Washington Post.

Some people aren’t too keen on the idea of using DNA like this to solve crimes, though. The researchers themselves say that this type of technology and its easy availability can pose serious privacy risks.

“While policymakers and the general public may be in favor of such enhanced forensic capabilities for solving crimes, it relies on databases and services that are open to everyone,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, the same technique could also be exploited for harmful purposes, such as re-identification of research subjects from their genetic data.”

What Do You Think?

Have you had genetic testing done? If you have, have you uploaded it to sites like GEDmatch to compare it to others and get family matches? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino