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posted by chromas on Saturday October 13 2018, @07:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the keep-your-base-pairs-to-yourself dept.

We will find you: DNA search used to nab Golden State Killer can home in on about 60% of white Americans

If you're white, live in the United States, and a distant relative has uploaded their DNA to a public ancestry database, there's a good chance an internet sleuth can identify you from a DNA sample you left somewhere. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that by combining an anonymous DNA sample with some basic information such as someone's rough age, researchers could narrow that person's identity to fewer than 20 people by starting with a DNA database of 1.3 million individuals.

Such a search could potentially allow the identification of about 60% of white Americans from a DNA sample—even if they have never provided their own DNA to an ancestry database. "In a few years, it's really going to be everyone," says study leader Yaniv Erlich, a computational geneticist at Columbia University.

The study was sparked by the April arrest of the alleged "Golden State Killer," a California man accused of a series of decades-old rapes and murders. To find him—and more than a dozen other criminal suspects since then—law enforcement agencies first test a crime scene DNA sample, which could be old blood, hair, or semen, for hundreds of thousands of DNA markers—signposts along the genome that vary among people, but whose identity in many cases are shared with blood relatives. They then upload the DNA data to GEDmatch, a free online database where anyone can share their data from consumer DNA testing companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com to search for relatives who have submitted their DNA. Searching GEDMatch's nearly 1 million profiles revealed several relatives who were the equivalent to third cousins to the crime scene DNA linked to the Golden State Killer. Other information such as genealogical records, approximate age, and crime locations then allowed the sleuths to home in on a single person.

Even if you can convince your entire immediate family to not use these services, you could still be vulnerable. And the success rate is likely to climb over time for all racial groups. Maybe the tests could be subsidized to get more of the population to give up the goods.

Also at LA Times

Related: DNA From Genealogy Site Led to Capture of Golden State Killer Suspect
GEDmatch: "What If It Was Called Police Genealogy?"
DNA Collected from Golden State Killer Suspect's Car, Leading to Arrest
Another Alleged Murderer Shaken Out of the Family Tree
'Martyr of the A10': DNA Leads to France Arrests Over 1987 Murder
Indiana Murder Suspect Found by Using Genealogical Website


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Saturday October 13 2018, @08:17AM (5 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 13 2018, @08:17AM (#748217) Journal

    Soon enough, everyone will be identifiable through the databases. Literally everyone. About the only people who might avoid it are those who live in far-far-far backwater places without technology. But, even those people will eventually be caught in the net. It only takes one member of a non-tech community to be found, and sampled, and put into the database. There is no question that it's coming - the question is, who controls the data, and how will it be used? Genocidally minded people will find the databases very useful, of course. Less evil people might find it useful to prevent certain classes of people from serving in their military, or becoming police, or finding decent jobs. Profit minded corporations will use the databases to block people from getting insurance. Other uses might prevent certain types of people getting higher education. Some of those potentially crazy uses might even sound "good" on the surface. Some gene or another gets associated with severe mental retardation, and over time, no very intelligent person with that gene is found - 100 is the highest IQ associated with that gene. Then - some baby is born with the gene who happens to be a super-genius. But, he is denied a meaningful education because all his relatives are dumb. Far more likely, medical decisions will be made based on the databases - only to be proven wrong in the long run. How many people might die, because of the faulty use of a database?

    As with all things, there is both good and bad in the use of this DNA data. For the most part, we aren't asking the right questions. If we are surprised that you can be identified through your relatives, then you're not even in a position to ask those questions.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @11:11AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @11:11AM (#748265)

    ..Genocidally minded people will find the databases very useful

    It has been my paranoid opinion for quite a while now* that 'They' are looking for common genetic markers in the general global untermensch population (in this case, anyone not of the top 1~10%), for eventual targeting in the next big global pandemic.

    Genocide, yes, but not in a narrow 'kill the $single_ethnic_group_of_choice' way you'd normally interpret from the usage of the word. They now have nascent workable targeted manipulation of the human genome, 'They' no longer require such large breeding herds to maintain a diverse human gene pool for them to play with. With automation and 'real' AIs probably just around the corner, 'They' also won't need much of a worker caste (and that includes you, scientists and engineers, that most definitley includes you...as you're the biggest 'threat' to them as you understand the 'systems' you're building for them)

    *'Plague Circuit' by Robert Sheckley planted the seed in my pre-teen mind back in the mid-70's, then as I got older and ran into momsers of the ilk of 'The Club of Rome', 'The Bilderbergers' and others of their motley..

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @03:39PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @03:39PM (#748321)

    Yeah, well, except that's already against that law. And if you say, maybe not in future, then maybe in the future it will not be illegal to discriminate based on skin color? Same thing.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Saturday October 13 2018, @03:54PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 13 2018, @03:54PM (#748326) Journal

      Perhaps you should read the other AC post, before your own. Then you might consider whether the wealthy are really expected to obey the law. Think about it for awhile.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @03:59PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @03:59PM (#748328)

    For serious crimes like murder or rape, I don't have a huge issue with it. What I do have an issue with is that this will eventually creep into less serious crimes and possibly even thought crimes.

    They're publicizing this being used to find murderers and rapists because the public is much more likely to accept it as reasonable than if they go after people that are being accused of non-violent offenses.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday October 13 2018, @10:41PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Saturday October 13 2018, @10:41PM (#748420) Journal

      That's not good enough. Are you advocating collecting DNA samples from convicted murderers and rapists? That doesn't catch first-timers. Murderers and rapists tend to be put away for a long time anyway. The creep is inevitable. It barely even works without the creep.

      Thanks but no thanks. I'd rather see physical action taken to disrupt and destroy such databases.

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