On Oct. 15, Toronto police announced that they had finally solved the 1984 murder of Christine Jessop using DNA evidence and genetic genealogy websites. Identifying Calvin Hoover as Jessop’s killer has provided immense relief to the family and those close to the case, and in particular to Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted and later exonerated after serving 18 months in prison.
The announcement highlights a conundrum: at risk is the genetic privacy of everyone who has uploaded — and, mostly, not uploaded — a DNA sample to a commercial genealogy site.
Genealogists never anticipated that their benign but passionate interest in tracking relations through records and DNA would ever lead to law enforcement’s most potent cold case tool kit. In 2018, public awareness of law enforcement’s mining of genetic genealogy came to light with the 2018 identification of the Golden State Killer. The identification of Joseph James DeAngelo relied on freely uploaded DNA results alongside painstaking genealogical research.
Since then, law enforcement’s mining of genealogical data has become an industry in itself, with hundreds... see more