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Serial killer’s arrest leads to privacy concerns regarding DNA

Last week’s arrest of a man accused of bein the infamous Golden State Killer has raised questions about the method authorities used to track him down.

Joseph James DeAngelo is believed to be the Golden State Killer, who in the 1970s and 1980s committed 12 murders, and raped at least 50 women throughout California.

Authorities were able to zero in on DeAngelo after uploading the killer’s DNA to the genealogy website, GEDmatch.

Genealogy websites are used by people who want to learn more about their family history, or in some cases, find their biological families. Those who use the site willingly submit their DNA and other information onto the site.

The killer’s DNA, recovered at a crime scene decades earlier, was uploaded to the website by authorities with the intent of finding the killer’s distant relatives.

From there, authorities were able to access information from those possible relatives and then narrow down the search based on age, location and other characteristics.

The search eventually led to 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, who authorities say is the Golden State Killer.

The use of genealogy websites by law enforcement to find suspected criminals, has drawn concerns about privacy rights and protecting those who use genealogy sites.

The ethical concern is that people who use these sites are not submitting their information for authorities to have access to them.

While some genealogy websites like AncestryDNA and 23AndMe do not allow their DNA samples to be searched by third-parties, including law-enforcement, GEDmatch does and it states on its website that users participating on the site should expect that their information will be shared with others.

It further states that if a user requires absolute privacy and security, they should not upload their data to the website.

Users of genealogical websites need to be aware of each websites’ terms of service and should always read the website’s privacy rules before submitting any information to the site.

Websites, & 23AndMe, specifically state under their privacy rules that none of the information shared will be made available to third parties without the user’s consent.

The privacy rules can be found by scrolling down to the bottom of the site’s homepage and clicking “Privacy.”

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