After Arrest Using DNA Database Ethicists Left Wondering: Do The Ends Justify The Means?
Genetic testing and genealogy sites are widely popular these days, but the case of the Golden State Killer calls attention to privacy issues some had glossed over in the past.
The New York Times:
The Golden State Killer Is Tracked Through A Thicket Of DNA, And Experts Shudder
Genetic testing services have become enormously popular with people looking for long-lost relatives or clues to hereditary diseases. Most never imagined that one day intimate pieces of their DNA could be mined to assist police detectives in criminal cases. Even as scientific experts applauded this week’s arrest of the Golden State Killer suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, some expressed unease on Friday at reports that detectives in California had used a public genealogy database to identify him. Privacy and ethical issues glossed over in the public’s rush to embrace DNA databases are now glaringly apparent, they said. (Kolata and Murphy, 4/27)
The New York Times:
To Catch A Killer: A Fake Profile On A DNA Site And A Pristine Sample
To solve a decades-old serial rape and murder case that had gone cold, investigators used DNA gathered at a crime scene and created a fake profile and pseudonym on a genealogy website several months ago, according to law enforcement officials. An investigator with the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office and an F.B.I. lawyer worked together for several months, submitting the genetic profile of a DNA sample recovered from a 1980 murder to a genealogy website, which then delivered several matches of individuals who were distant relatives of the suspect. From there, in consultation with several genealogists, they were led to the doorstep of the man whom they believed carried out a spree of rapes and murders across California in the 1970s and 1980s. (Arango, Goldman and Fuller, 4/27)
The Wall Street Journal:
Use Of Genealogy Data To Track Golden State Killer Raises Privacy Questions
The use of DNA information in criminal investigations isn’t new, but what makes the case noteworthy, according to legal experts and bioethicists, is the use of a nonstate-owned DNA database, where individuals who share their genetic code are essentially sharing information about family members who may not have consented to reveal such data. State-owned databases contain DNA data of convicted criminals and, in some instances, people arrested. Sites like GEDmatch contain data of people who may not have had run-ins with law enforcement. (Hernandez, Kanno-Youngs and Elinson, 4/28)
Los Angeles Times:
From Golden State Killer To Grim Sleeper, DNA Helping Break Serial Killer Mysteries From 1970s And 1980s
Crime sprees on the scale of the Golden State Killer's are more difficult to pull off nowadays, some experts say: The same technology that helps solve such cold cases can thwart a modern-day criminal before he accumulates enough victims to earn a nickname. In recent years, serial killers who make headlines are more likely to be long retired than actively on the hunt. "It's a lot harder to be a serial killer or rapist now than it used to be — they get ID'd sooner," said former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. (Chang and Queally, 4/29)
The Associated Press:
AP Explains: A Look At DNA-Sharing Services And Privacy
The use of a genealogy website to track down a suspected California serial killer illustrates both the extraordinary power of DNA-sharing services and the broad privacy concerns that surround the fast-growing commercial market for genetic analysis. TV commercials for companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com pitch their services as simple and fun ways of learning about family heritage and health. And while those companies on Friday sought to distance themselves from the free GEDmatch website used by police, the California case exposed broader questions about what happens after consumers mail their saliva away for DNA analysis and upload the results to the internet. (4/27)
Orange County Register:
How Many Homicides Go Unsolved In California And The Nation?
Four decades. That’s how long it took police in California to identify and, on Wednesday, April 25, arrest Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, below, the man they believe is the Golden State Killer, who was linked to at least 12 homicides and 50 rapes in the 1970s and ’80s. While law enforcement, and victims of the killer, welcome the apprehension, it raises a question: How many killings go unsolved? (Snibbe, 4/29)