On Friday, police were finally able to arrest a suspect in the brutal murder of four University of Idaho students in November. While this was welcome news for Americans across the country, especially the victims’ families and their communities, the method by which the alleged killer was identified is a stark reminder that DNA technology is a dangerous issue that poses a significant threat to Americans’ personal freedoms, privacy, and safety.
Forensic genealogists use genetic information to match individuals to DNA samples. This means utilizing open-source databases, e.g. GEDMatch. I can assure you that 97% of the American public does not understand what this means or the privacy implications. https://t.co/mQ4t3raH6E
— 🇺🇸Lionel🇺🇸 (@LionelMedia) January 2, 2023
According to law enforcement, the suspect — 28-year-old Bryan Christopher Kohberger, a criminology graduate student — was identified using DNA sourced from a public genealogy database.
This isn’t the first major case that used this method. In 2018, the Golden State Killer was caught using DNA from distant relatives who had used GEDmatch — a free genealogy website where users can find their relatives by uploading their DNA test results.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was identified as the Golden State Killer, a serial killer, sex offender, and burglar who terrorized Californians for over a decade in the 1970s and 1980s. His case displayed the ethical dilemmas surrounding law enforcement’s use of DNA databases in their investigations.
What many Americans don’t realize is that there is no guarantee of DNA privacy — even if you don’t personally submit your own DNA to a genealogy website or company. It doesn’t even matter if no one in your immediate family has submitted DNA, as people can be identified even with the DNA of distant relatives. With the case of the Golden State Killer, law enforcement was able to narrow their search using DNA data from family members who were related to DeAngelo Jr.’s great-great-great grandparents, a relation that dated back to the 1800s.
While many Americans may dismiss these privacy concerns because DNA is being used to catch criminals, there is no guarantee that the method will always be used for a good purpose. As The Federalist notes, “No institution on earth is incorruptible, and the FBI, CIA, and DHS have already illegally weaponized their power against the American people.”
These companies are already reportedly sending people’s DNA to entities outside of law enforcement. Gordon Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” has revealed that China has been “buying American companies which have DNA profiles, subsidizing DNA analysis for ancestry companies, and hacking.”
This means that sending your DNA to an American company, or your relatives sending their DNA, could risk your genetic information ending up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
"There is no such thing as a private company in the Communist Party of China."
Intelligence officials are increasingly concerned about the Chinese government’s efforts to acquire American DNA and health information.https://t.co/erQwEFtKfD
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 1, 2021