Can You Be Identified by DNA and Location Alone?

Think that you can maintain your genetic privacy even if you've never given your DNA to be sequenced? Think again.

Columbia University computer scientist Yaniv Erlich wanted to know if they could identify a person if they only had a piece of DNA and geographical location:

They started with a full DNA sequence from a Utah woman whose genetic information was published anonymously as part of an unrelated scientific study ...
Erlich and his collaborators uploaded her genetic code to GEDmatch and ran a search to see if she had any relations on the site.They found two: one in North Dakota and one in Wyoming.
By comparing the DNA of all three relatives, Erlich’s team was able to find a common ancestral couple that were the Utah woman’s great-grandparents.
Next, the researchers scoured genealogical websites and other sources for additional descendants of that long-ago couple. They found 10 children and hundreds of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After a long day of painstaking work, they researchers were able to correctly name the owner of the DNA sample.

Read the rest of the story over at the Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Can You Be Identified by DNA and Location Alone?"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More