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The Golden State Killer case was cracked with a genealogy website. What does that mean for genetic privacy?

Privacy advocates worry that genealogy companies leave the door open to sharing a customer’s genetic information with law enforcement.
Accused rapist and killer Joseph James DeAngelo Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — The identity of one of California’s most notorious serial killers had been a mystery for decades — until this week, when law enforcement arrested a suspect. Investigators revealed on Thursday that they made the breakthrough using a remarkable tool: a genealogy website.

The unusual manner in which the Golden State Killer case was cracked has sparked wonderment — as well as privacy concerns about how law enforcement can and does use the genetic information that consumers give up to genetic testing companies. That’s because companies generally say on their websites that a customer’s genetic information can be shared with law enforcement if demanded with a warrant.

In the Golden State Killer case, investigators took DNA collected years ago from one of the crime scenes and submitted it to one or more websites that have

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