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Full Rigor: Family Tree DNA, Guilt by Association

DNA testing
DNA profile, (Courtesy: AP Images)

There are pros and cons to submitting your DNA to a family tree website. On the positive side, you can find out where you came from and if you are related to anyone of importance. On the negative side, if one person in your family submits DNA to a genealogical website, your whole family’s DNA is subject to a criminal prosecution dragnet, according to a constitutional lawyer.

Sure, genealogical websites have recently helped to nab serial rapists and killers by matching their DNA to distant relatives who have submitted their DNA to the websites; however, now the family tree websites are cracking down and requiring law enforcement to respect the clients’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Some states like Florida are requiring law enforcement to get a judge to sign off on a warrant in order to access DNA stored in a genealogical website.

In the recent past, the Golden State Killer and a suspected Florida serial killer, Robert Hayes, were both nabbed thanks to a DNA match on a family tree website, which is a good thing.

However, without even realizing it, by submitting your DNA to an ancestry database, you’re giving the police access to the genetic makeup, relationships and health profiles of every relative-past, present and future-in your family, whether or not they ever agreed to be part of such a database.

Listen to Karen’s most recent episode of Full Rigor, a Florida True Crime podcast: Episode 111: Family Tree DNA Guilt by Association

Episode 111: Family Tree DNA Guilt by Association


Thank you to John W. Whitehead for contributing his vast knowledge to this podcase. He wrote a great op-ed The War Over Genetic Privacy Is Just Beginning “By accessing your DNA, the government could soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know”
John Whitehead is an attorney specializing in constitutional law, human rights and popular culture. He is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute.