Last week, the man known as the “Golden State Killer” was finally caught outside Sacramento, California. Exactly how investigators tracked him down after so many decades is commendable detective work, but it’s also a cautionary tale about privacy data that should give Americans pause.
In this case, the arrest of the "Golden State Killer" would not have been possible without the website GEDmatch.com. And no, it’s not a dating site for those who’ve earned their GED. On GEDmatch, people voluntarily submit their genetic information to try to locate long-lost family members. It’s unregulated, open source and free. People upload their own genetic info, then cross-reference with others who’ve loaded theirs, in hopes of finding relatives.
Investigators used GEDmatch.com to see if any of the site’s family trees matched the DNA samples they had from decades-old crime scenes. The "Golden State Killer" wouldn’t have had to submit his own DNA information for the cops to find him. They just had to find a relative who'd created a family profile on the website, then they could match the killer’s DNA to this family member’s, and narrow down potential suspects within the family.
It only took them four months of this DNA mining to get to the right family and, ultimately, the killer. He had over 100 relatives on GEDmatch.com with some percentage of DNA match.
GEDmatch says investigators did not approach them about the Golden State Killer case, but police didn’t have to get a search warrant, because the website is open source. GEDmatch warns users that their info is there for all to see.
The largest genealogy services --- Ancestry.com and 23andMe --- supposedly protect user data from outside parties. But come on, this is the age of Wikileaks. You don’t think some dark web creep can’t steal your DNA info?
The government could have a database containing the ultimate private information about you --- your DNA.
How much personal information should the government have access to? We’re closing in on a feasible future where the government could have a database containing the ultimate private information about you --- your DNA.
It’s awesome that technology finally caught up to the killer. But what hasn’t caught up, as usual, are laws regarding the use of personal information. Do we really want the government to have all of our genetic info?
More importantly, when our future A.I. rulers create a human version of Jurassic Park, do you really want a cloned version of you running around? I don’t think so.