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On Dec. 9, Verogen, a California-based forensic genomics company, acquired GEDmatch, a user-sourced DNA genealogy site. The acquisition suggests that GEDmatch’s transformation from a popular genealogy site to a crime-fighting tool is almost complete. The privacy implications will be enormous, even for those who have never considered taking a consumer genetic test.

GEDmatch launched in 2010 as an open-source database where individuals who have tested their DNA with private companies, like 23andme and AncestryDNA, could upload their results and find family members. More recently, GEDmatch has acquired a second use—solving crimes. Most Americans first learned about GEDmatch in 2018, after law enforcement announced that they had used it to identify the suspected Golden State Killer.

While not the first time the technique was used, the Golden State Killer investigation was certainly the highest-profile, and it opened the floodgates to solving crimes with genetic genealogy. Law enforcement simply input DNA from unsolved cases into GEDmatch (as well as some other databases, like FamilyTreeDNA and Othram). When crime scene DNA demonstrates even a partial match, forensic genealogists can use that information to... see more