Your DNA may be held against you

Susan Scutti


If you’ve sent your DNA to a commercial genealogy site, said Susan Scutti, it may one day be used in a criminal investigation. That’s the obvious implication of last week’s arrest by California police of Joseph DeAngelo, the man they believe is the infamous Golden State Killer. Investigators used a sample of the killer’s DNA found at a crime scene to look for family members on GEDmatch, a free online service, and matched it to some of DeAngelo’s relatives. Further police work led to DeAngelo. No one can dispute that solving the case would be a triumph for justice, but the landmark investigation creates real privacy concerns for the millions of people who’ve submitted DNA to services such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com. These samples “contain a treasure trove of health and ancestry information about you and your family.” Public defenders warn that if law enforcement agencies come to rely on DNA searches like that in the California case, it will cast a net of suspicion over hundreds of innocent people in investigations of murders, rapes, and robberies. So be forewarned: When you submit your DNA for analysis, it could one day lead to the arrest of an uncle or third cousin—or you.