Arrest In Idaho Murders Is A Reminder That Your DNA Is Not Private Or Safe

On Friday, police finally arrested a suspect in the savage stabbing and murder of four University of Idaho students in November. According to law enforcement, 28-year-old criminology graduate student Bryan Christopher Kohberger was identified through DNA sourced from a public genealogy database. Kohberger’s arrest is a relief to Americans across the country, particularly the victims’ families and the traumatized Moscow, Idaho community. However, it is also a reminder that DNA technology is a dangerously unaddressed issue that poses a threat to personal freedoms, privacy, and safety. 

In 2018, DNA famously helped catch Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., a serial killer, sex offender, and burglar, who terrorized Californians for more than a decade in the 1970s and ’80s. Investigators found DeAngelo via distant relatives who had used GEDmatch, a free genealogy site where users find relatives by uploading their DNA test results. 

The Golden State Killer case showcased the ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of DNA databases for crime solving. The primary problem is that there is no guarantee of DNA privacy, even if you don’t submit your DNA to a company like GEDmatch. It does not matter if no one in your immediate family submits DNA because people can be identified using distant relatives. In the case of the Golden State Killer, law enforcement narrowed their search using DNA data from family members directly related to DeAngelo’s great-great-great grandparents dating back to the 1800s.

Many wave away the privacy concerns because DNA has been used to catch criminals, including alleged murderers like Kohberger, but there’s no guarantee this technology will always be used for good. No institution on earth is incorruptible, and the FBI, CIA, and DHS have already illegally weaponized their power against the American people.

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