CA Criminal Defense Attorneys Reveal that the “Golden State Killer” Case May Have Been Solved Using Data from a Genealogy Website

AncestryDNA and 23and Me say they warn you in their fine print, which they do, that when you provide your saliva sample to find out more out about your heritage and your distant relatives, the data that comes back can be accessed by various agencies as it is no longer your property. But, did you know that law enforcement officials are included in this broad category of agencies and can actually use your DNA along with the other data your sample revealed to incriminate someone? No? Well, it appears police have managed to do it in the past and they recently just did.

According to Gizmodo, law enforcement officials in California may have identified the “Golden State Killer” who was a “notorious serial killer who terrorized CA in the 1970’s and 1980’s” and managed to evade police for decades. Because he was never identified, until now, the case went cold. But, investigators recently had a major break after they came across “a match for what seemed to be a close relative of the killer, uploaded onto a genealogy website.” The source says that investigators began to “scour” the relative’s family tree for any potential suspects and that is when they came across Joseph James DeAngelo, 72. DeAngelo, who happens to be a former police officer, was arrested outside of his home on Tuesday and has been charged with murder for the 1978 slayings of Katie and Brian Maggiore in Rancho Cordova.

While many are shocked that officials have managed to crack a 44-year-old case, some question “the privacy you give up when you spit in a tube and mail away your DNA.” Clearly, you give up all rights to it and you no longer have any privacy which is why these companies require you to agree to their privacy policy prior to sending in your sample. GEDmatch, which is what the Sacramento District Attorney’s office used to make the connection, lists in their privacy policy that if you require absolute security, do not upload your data to the site and if you have uploaded it, to delete it. The company’s privacy policy also says that “While the results presented on this site are intended solely for genealogical research, we are unable to guarantee that users will not find other uses.” And clearly, they have.

CA criminal defense attorneys
It appears the information you receive from genealogy websites can be accessed by many agencies, including law enforcement officials.

Although GEDmatch stated that they were never approached by law enforcement, this case is a clear indicator to the public that their DNA is potentially being accessed and used for various reasons when they choose to send it in to these genealogy companies. While many have mixed feelings on the matter, two things are certain: (1) a potential killer has been captured, and (2) your DNA is open for review when you send it in to companies like Ancestry.com and AncestryDNA.

Aside from using your DNA to incriminate someone, it can also be used for other things that could harm you in the long run. For instance, Gizmodo points out that it could lead to you losing your health insurance. Many of these sites not only tell you where your long-lost relatives are from but also what health conditions you might be susceptible to. So, if your returned data indicates that you are pre-diagnosed to certain medical conditions, that means you are now aware of this. And if your insurance company asks you about your knowledge of your own health, you have to be honest. If you were to lie and not inform them of these conditions, they could reject you for coverage. And chances are, they may have already seen the results and want to confirm that you have too so they can increase your insurance coverage costs.

As of right now, it appears many are concerned with the fact that this may be yet another violation of privacy, but because those who provided their samples agreed to the privacy policy, that is difficult to determine.


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