DNA Detectives: How Law Enforcement Uses Genealogy Websites


>>>WHEN YOU FIND WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR, IT’S PRETTY EXCITING. IT’S LIKE HITTING THE JACKPOT.>>ALL NEW AT 4:30, DNA DETECTIVES. GENEALOGY WEBSITES ARE REVEALING MORE THAN EVER ABOUT OUR HERITAGE AND OUR FAMILY’S PAST. BUT ALL THAT HIGHLY PERSONAL DATA IS IS BECOMING A TOOL FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT. WITH CONCERNS REACHING FAR INTO THE FUTURE.>>GEORGE SPENCER SHOWS US WHY.>>HELLO, HOW WAS YOUR DAY?>>Reporter: WAITING FOR HER KIDS’ BUS PUTS FAMILY FIRST. SHE’S BECOME SOMETHING OF A DETECTIVE SEARCHING FOR HER RELATIVES HISTORIES, ESPECIALLY THIS GREAT GRANDMOTHER ORPHANED AS A YOUNG GIRL.>>THAT STARTED IT. I GOT BIT BY THE BUG PRETTY FAST.>>Reporter: LIKE MANY OF US, SHE’S TURNED TO GENEALOGY WEBSITES TO FILL THE GAPS. SHE SUBMITTED A SALIVA SAMPLE AND USED ONLINE TOOLS TO CONNECT THE DOTS. BUT SHE MAY NOT BE THE ONLY DETECTIVE INTERESTED IN THE CONNECTIONS SUCH TOOLS REVEAL. LAST MONTH WE LEARNED INVESTIGATORS MAY HAVE FINALLY IDENTIFIED CALIFORNIA’S GOLDEN STATE KILLER THANKS TO A GENETIC MATCH TO A RELATIVE WHO UPLOADED DNA DATA TO THE OPEN SOURCE GENEALOGY WEBSITE. THE SUSPECT IS HAS NOT ENTERED A PLEA IN THE CASE. JUST LAST WEEK WASHINGTON STATE AUTHORITIES BELIEVE THEY SOLVE ED A 30-YEAR-OLD DOUBLE MURDER CASE IN A SIMILAR WAY. THAT SUSPECT HAS PLEADED NOT GUILTY.>>WE’RE GOING TO START TO SEE MORE OF THIS.>>Reporter: JJ IS A RETIRED FBI SUPERVISOR WHO SAYS ONLINE SERVICES ARE VASTLY INCREASING THE AMOUNT OF NA DATA IN EXISTENCE OUTSIDE OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT DATABASE. WHEN PEOPLE UPLOAD THAT INFORMATION TO OPEN SOURCE MATCH ING SITES, THE WEB OF FA MEAL Y’ALL CONNECTIONS COULD OFFER LEADS FOR ANY CRIME WITH DNA EVIDENCE.>>THEY ARE TRYING TO SENATOR ET ROW IT DOWN. THINK OF IT LIKE A JIGSAW PUZZLE.>>Reporter: BOTH 23ANDME AND ANCESTRY.COM SAY THEY NEVER VOLUNTARILY WORK WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT AND RECOMMEND AGAINST THIRD PARTY MATCHING SITES. BUT BOTH COMPANIES ACKNOWLEDGE EVEN WITH THOSE PROTECTIONS, YOUR DNA DATA MIGHT STILL BE. ACCESSIBLE IF IT’S SUBPOENAED OR A JUDGE ORDERS IT.>>THEY ARE NOT GOING TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO TO LAW ENFORCEMENT. THEY ARE GOING TO NEED A COURT ORDER. SO THERE’S SOME LEGAL PROCESS AND THERE ARE SOME CHECKS AND BALANCES.>>IT’S A FREE FOR ALL.>>Reporter: PAM DIXON OF THE WORLD PRIVACY FORUM SAY MANY PEOPLE INCORRECTLY ASSUME THEIR DNA DATA IS PROTECTED UNDER PRIVACY LAWS EVEN IF THEY PLACED IT PUBLICLY ONLINE. DIXON SAYS IT OPENS A PANDORA’S BOX POTENTIALLY INCRIMINATING CHILDREN OR RELATIVES GENERATIONS INTO THE FUTURE AND EVEN OFFERING INSURANCE COMPANIES OR EMPLOYERS PERMANENT INSIGHT INTO PRIVATE MEDICAL CONDITIONS.>>IT IMPACTS YOU AND ALL YOUR KIDS AND THEIR KIDS AND THEIR KIDS.>>Reporter: SHE SAYS SHE DOESN’T HAVE PRIVACY CONCERNS. AND LIKES THAT POLICE HAVE ONE MORE TOOL TO CATCH A CRIMINAL.>>IF YOU COMMITTED A CRIME, YOU’RE GUILTY OF A CRIME. ONE DAY IT’S GOING TO CATCH UP TO YOU.>>NOW DIXON ENCOURAGES FAMILY RESEARCHERS TO CHECK THE PRIVACY POLICY ISES AT THE WEBSITES THEY ARE USING. BOTH OF THE BIGGEST DNA WEBSITES SAY THEY WILL ONLY PROVIDE BASIC SUBSCRIBER INFORMATION WITH A SUBPOENA AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ONLY WITH A COURT ORDER.>>SO WE’RE HEARING ABOUT THESE CASES ELSEWHERE WHERE THEY ARE USING THESE DNA TOOLS TO CRACK CASES. IS LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT?>>THAT’S THE QUESTION WE WERE WONDERING ABOUT. WE CHECKED WITH A COUPLE OF THE BIGGEST FORCES IN OUR AREA. BOTH OF THEM TOLD US THEY HAVE NOT USED THESE WEBSITES JUST YET TO SOLVE CASES. THAT’S WHAT WE’LL BE WATCHING FOR GOING FORWARD.>>IT’S UPLOADING THAT SECOND STEP WHICH IS THE ISSUE.>>THAT’S THE BIG ISSUE PEOPLE

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