Should police have access to genetic genealogy databases? Capturing the Golden State Killer and other criminals using a controversial new forensic technique

by Christi J. Guerrini, Jill O. Robinson, Devan Petersen, Amy L. McGuire

On April 24, 2018, a suspect in California’s notorious Golden State Killer cases was arrested after decades of eluding the police. Using a novel forensic approach, investigators identified the suspect by first identifying his relatives using a free, online genetic database populated by individuals researching their family trees. In the wake of the case, media outlets reported privacy concerns with police access to personal genetic data generated by or shared with genealogy services. Recent data from 1,587 survey respondents, however, provide preliminary reason to question whether such concerns have been overstated. Still, limitations on police access to genetic genealogy databases in particular may be desirable for reasons other than current public demand for them.

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