Arrest In Idaho Murders Demonstrates Your DNA Is Not Private Or Safe

It was Friday, Dec. 30 when police arrested a suspect for the brutal stabbing and murder of four University of Idaho students in November.

Law enforcement explained that the suspect, a 28-year-old criminology graduate student, was found through DNA pulled from a public genealogy database.

The arrest of course serves as a relief to the victims’ families and the Moscow, Idaho community.

It also provides a reminder that privacy concerns surrounding human DNA have yet to be addressed on a widespread level. The power of such data calls into question potential threats people can face when the technology falls into the wrong hands, especially as it pertains to personal freedoms, privacy, and safety noted the Federalist.

DNA previously assisted in the location of a serial killer and sex offender back in 2018 after he allegedly committed crimes in California for over a decade. The suspect was located after investigators looked into the DNA of some of his distant relatives who had used the genealogy website GEDmatch.

The Federalists argued that while many dismiss these concerns of privacy due to the fact that DNA has been used to catch criminals, including accused murders, there always remains the potential for this data to be used for evil. As the outlet noted, the FBI, CIA, and DHS have all illegally utilized their powers against the American people in numerous instances.

Pledges for consumer privacy are sometimes ignored by large data companies. This was seen in 2019 when GEDmatch assisted authorities with an assault case pertaining to a 71-year-old woman who was strangled in a Utah church.

The DNA company obliged by providing the authorities data, violating their own stated terms of service promising user DNA would only be shared with law enforcement for cases surrounding sexual assault or homicide. None of these stipulations applied to the Utah victim.

Closely tied to the issue of DNA privacy is that of AI recognition, especially when it is used by law enforcement. Some argue it can be used unjustly or in a nefarious manner, particularly after recent reports revealed that an innocent man was jailed in Georgia after being falsely accused of robbery by authorities who utilized the technology.