21st Century DNA Searches

“The investigators used an open-source genetic database, GEDmatch, to explore family trees and see whether any contained matches to DNA samples from the crime scenes, according to Paul Holes, a retired cold case investigator who briefed the Sacramento County sheriff throughout the final stages of the investigation.
Once a family profile was created, the investigators could find feasible “suspects” within a family.”
See What the Golden State Killer case means for your genetic privacy
The case of the Golden State Killer is fascinating. It began when I was a young man and may conclude shortly. The killer left a few samples of DNA which have been preserved well enough to be matched decades later. Family members of the killer entering their DNA profiles into various databases lead to finding a familial match which by process of elimination lead to the killer. This is a huge positive benefit to society and victims of crime but opens the door to horrible abuses. What if Hitler had such technology? What if DNA samples were compulsory for everyone? What if a tyrant wanted to wipe out whole families or communities to suppress dissent? This gives a whole new meaning to ethnic cleansing or eugenics.

Legally this hinges on the right not to “self-incriminate” but DNA is mobile and people can voluntarily give up samples or be forced by the courts for probable cause. I hope it’s as simple as nailing down “crime doesn’t pay” to greater certainty and not the doorway to horrors unknown. It’s certainly great use of DNA-tinkering and information technology, paths I’ve recommended for students for decades.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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4 Responses to 21st Century DNA Searches

  1. Ivan says:

    What if a tyrant wanted to wipe out whole families or communities to suppress dissent?

    What if a retired gentleman in Canada started asking crazy hypotheticals instead of focusing on the real privacy implications?

  2. DrLoser says:

    Which paths are those Robert?

    Before Robert gets on his high horse and repeats himself, those paths would be
    1) “DNA-tinkering”
    2) “Information technology”
    It seems to me that “DNA-tinkering” is actually far more dangerous than “identification via DNA,” since it basically implies falsifying the truth. Something that Robert might care to take back as a recommendation.
    It further seems to me that “recommending” information technology doesn’t actually mean “having the faintest clue about” information technology. I mean, I recommend taking a PhD in Quantum Chromo-Dynamics. But unlike Robert, I wouldn’t claim to be an authority on the subject.

  3. DrLoser says:

    What if Hitler had such technology?

    I think Adolph managed quite well enough without troubling himself with DNA databases, Robert. What, six million Jews, one million Romanys, and assorted other “genetic undesirables” not good enough for you?

    The very best that DNA technology can do (and that supposes statistical perfection) is to identify me as me, and you as you. On an individual basis. I hardly think that this is suitable stuff for wild speculation.

    Try fingerprints or phrenology — those, and similar “identification” techniques are actually worth a critique.

  4. Grece says:

    paths I’ve recommended for students for decades.

    Which paths are those Robert?

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