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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: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @10:41AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @10:41AM (#748261)

    Maybe your best hope at evading detection will be errors that propagate from database to database, such as misspelled names, mismatched DNA, or incorrect family trees.

    That may be your best hope, but I'm not leaving it to chance. I've submitted someone else's DNA to 23andme as my own, and shared it with ged match. My family isn't into that shit (neither am I), so I'm not worried about being the wrong monkey in the family tree (I'll blame 23 if that ever happens). But I certainly don't trust law enforcement or the government when it comes to these things.

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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday October 13 2018, @04:18PM (1 child)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday October 13 2018, @04:18PM (#748335)

    Better hope you've got an alibi when your false DNA print goes out and does something you wouldn't.

    --
    🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @05:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13 2018, @05:42PM (#748352)

      No worries there, mate. If it ever comes down to that I'll give them ... a DNA sample.