‘Genetic Informants’

Privacy Fears Over DNA Website Used to Capture Golden State Killer Suspect

The investigators in the Golden State Killer case, who have possibly ended a decades-long manhunt for a man responsible for 12 murders and nearly 50 rapes in the 1970s, have been praised by for their “ground-breaking” use of a genealogical website to track down their suspect. But others have raised privacy fears over the technique, saying it has exposed a lack of legal protection for the millions of people who submit their DNA to such sites to discover their genealogy. Steve Mercer, the chief attorney for the forensic division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, told the Associated Press there aren’t strong privacy laws to keep police from using ancestry site databases. “People who submit DNA for ancestors testing are unwittingly becoming genetic informants on their innocent family,” Mercer said, adding that users “have fewer privacy protections than convicted offenders whose DNA is contained in regulated databanks.” The suspect, 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, is due in court Friday.