The Ethics Behind Using Genealogy Websites to Find Crime Suspects

In April, the Golden State Killer, a former police officer responsible for a series of rapes and murders in the 1970s and ’80s, was finally caught — thanks to a genealogy website.
Armed with the killer’s DNA from various crime scenes, detectives used a website called GEDmatch to track down possible relatives who had similar genetics. This ultimately led them to a handful of suspects, one of whom fit the rest of the clues: Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old man living in a quiet neighborhood of Sacramento, California. Investigators were then able to collect a tiny bit of the man’s DNA, taken from something he had thrown away, and then use this genetic material to confirm that he was the Golden State Killer.