How They Caught The Golden State Killer

How They Caught The Golden State Killer

Your genetic code is probably already in a database, without you ever giving a sample or permission. This video is sponsored by Brilliant. The first 200 people to sign up via get 20% off a yearly subscription.

A huge thanks to Paul Holes, Billy Jensen, Brett Williams, Dr Connie Bormans and Dr Doc Edge for being part of this video. Thanks to Verogen and Family Tree DNA for giving me access to film.

Thanks to Sonya Pemberton, Joe Hanson, Raquel Nuno, CGP Grey, and numerous Patreon supporters for helpful feedback on an earlier version of this video.

Phillips, C. (2018). The Golden State Killer investigation and the nascent field of forensic genealogy. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 36, 186-188. —

Guerrini, C. J., Robinson, J. O., Petersen, D., & McGuire, A. L. (2018). Should police have access to genetic genealogy databases? Capturing the Golden State Killer and other criminals using a controversial new forensic technique. PLoS biology, 16(10), e2006906. —

Ram, N., Guerrini, C. J., & McGuire, A. L. (2018). Genealogy databases and the future of criminal investigation. Science, 360(6393), 1078-1079. —

Special thanks to Patreon supporters: Andrew, Diffbot, Micah Mangione, MJP, Gnare, Nick DiCandilo, Dave Kircher, Edward Larsen, Burt Humburg, Blake Byers, Dumky, Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Bill Linder, Paul Peijzel, Mac Malkawi, Michael Schneider, Big Badaboom, Ludovic Robillard, Jim buckmaster, fanime96, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Vincent, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Alfred Wallace, Clayton Greenwell, Michael Krugman, Cy ‘kkm’ K’Nelson, Sam Lutfi, Ron Neal

Written by Derek Muller
Animation by Iván Tello and Another Angle 3D Visuals (
SFX by Shaun Clifford
Filmed by Derek Muller, Raquel Nuno, Shirley Dutoit, and Emily Zhang
Edited by Derek Muller
Produced by Derek Muller and Casey Rentz
Additional video supplied by Getty Images
Music from Epidemic Sound


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  1. On February 25th 2022, a data breach leaked DNA data of sexual assault victims from Oklahoma-based DNA Solutions. Hopefully this is enough to get these people back in their senses. If this gets widely adopted, it will become a serious violation of everyone's privacy.
    Source: Trust me bro! jk jk, The article is on PortSwigger, I can't put the link here, the comment gets removed if I do.

  2. It's interesting. I worked at a genomics lab. I've also done 23andme.The other thing I know I have a brother in the UK.Found him on 23andme.

  3. The Nazis tried to understand genetic information taken from my people. I am a gypsy, and till today, our numbers haven’t bounced back. Many scientific experiments were conducted on gypsies. Most things are so horrifying, I would prefer not to even discuss it. That being said, I would never voluntarily provide any genetic information to a source that the federal government, among others, has full access to. And please don’t dilute yourself into believing that they will not get into their systems.

  4. Ar the end of the day, people who dont want to share their DNA sequence have these 2 fears:
    1. They are criminals and dont want to be caught
    2. If you are not a criminal and donth have the intend to, What if the real criminal, found a way to deflect the blame by using other people gene? Isnt that a possibility?, I know there are scientific methods to make sure this kind of thing wont happen, and most people dont have sufficient knowledge about DNA sequencing, but there is still chance of it to happen and thats actually really worrying

  5. How long is it going to be before they jail the first non-viloent drug offender using this technology? Perhaps it's already happened, we have no idea because we are only fed selective bits of information regarding exactly how this method is being used.

    "Your third cousin might be a serial killer, it's ok to narc your family members out, trust us, we only want the worst of the worst." Next thing you know the swat team is smashing your door in over a bag of mushrooms they suspect your brother has stashed under his bed.

    Ask yourself this question, "Are there any past examples of our information being abused in a similar fashion?"

    I think anybody with half a brain knows what the honest answer is.

  6. Like a lot of people, my problem isn't with the concept, it's in who's executing it. And between the massive amounts of civil forfeiture, the horrific abuse of the arrested and imprisoned, and just the general lack of consiquences for law enforcement in most countries, this is not tech I feel comfortable opting into while the possibility of false positives or abuses of power is so high.

  7. Really? No mention of the statistical problems with matching DNA-samples? Most DNA from crime scenes is degraded, so the chances of having 20 good, matchable markers is not that high, let alone 700k markers. And the fact that the chance of a false positive is extremely low, is only relevant if you match a perfect sample from a crime scene to a small batch of samples from people of interest. The moment you match it to a huge database with millions of people, the chance of a false positive rises. Quite fast, actually.
    If you combine the less than perfect sample state with the database blunderbuss attack, you're bound to have all kinds of mistakes in your results.
    And health insurance is your only privacy concern? Wow, did you miss a lot of history classes? Besides, these samples are in the hands of companies. And companies want to make money. They're not in the business of "doing good". Speaking of which: it will only be matter of time before Google buys these companies and make the samples publically and searchable.

  8. No privacy freak here but the notion that promoting genetic "registration" correctly balances public safety with public privacy is flawed in the sense that greater safety is not achieved if, for instance, you are scrutinized by health insurers only so they can increase their already obscene profits by denying coverage for you, or you are scrutinized by an oppressive government, or indeed a secret agency not subject to legal restrictions. We saw what abuses have been taking place under Patriot Act and the generalization of corporate spying. I hate to say it but very few people are the victims of rape, child abduction, or murder. Even in countries with high murder rates like the US.

  9. Another good thing about it, is that we get more ways to get solid evidence, and get one step closer to decreasing the value or abolishing confessions, that are not uncommonly misused to trick or force people into wrongly incriminating themselves, and witnesses, that are not uncommonly misused to wrongly incriminate others – either out of malice or mistake.

  10. judging by the comments, im not the only one torn on this…. obviously we all want rapists and killers held accountable. but theres a slippery slope argument here that i dont think is unreasonable to explore…

  11. 18:39 – so after previously declaring that your 3rd cousin you didn't know existed may have added your dna into the database, she says oh dont worry you can request that it be removed…. even though you have no idea its there to begin with. this plays like an episode of black mirror – yeah dont worry, we have your genetic code but you have to guess that we do and request us not to record whats in your dna. but dont worry – we're def trustworthy and you certainly wont end up on a list somewhere

  12. I do worry about the misuse of this information. I have clearly seen a desire by government to keep tabs on everyone. There is no better way to do that than by using DNA data. Of course, as the video said, most of us are already in the date base due to our relatives. Do not underestimate the ways governments try to spy on us.

  13. Everybody's got to chill out about being scared of privacy of their DNA and institutions abusing the power.
    It's not really scary when you think about it. There's easily legislation that can bar any commercial institution from using it against you, stop being so paranoid. There's already wild amounts of information they can get from just looking at you, even just if you're african american or not will tell you how statistically likely you are for a heart attack, or asian or not and how long you will live through healthcare service, and there's already laws in place stopping any company from discrimination in that sense. Good since with 2010's.

    It's not like your DNA is some secret that you have that should be kept private. You can't ever be put in jail because you match a DNA sample. It can only hone down to a suspect, and they have to be caught doing something bad and get traditional evidence to ever incriminate you. You could get an exact match and if you have an alibi, then you're not guilty.
    This is used for good in 99.99% of the cases you freaks!

  14. People need to chill about whether this is their 'privacy' or not. It's not like your DNA is some secret that you have that should be kept private. It doesn't tell someone where you live and what tv shows you like. You can't ever be put in jail because you match a DNA sample. It can only hone down to a suspect, and they have to be caught doing something bad and get traditional evidence to ever incriminate you. You could get an exact match and if you have an alibi, then you're not guilty.

    This is used for good in 99.99% of the cases you freaks!

  15. Everyone should submit their DNA at birth
    BUT it would have to be secured so that it was only searched for identification of your body, to id a child taken and was now an adult, or your assaulter or killer. Absolutely no access by insurance companies or employers etc.

  16. In the concept of 6 degrees of separation (7 degrees to Kevin Bacon), Im a bit concerned of using DNA for solving crimes to a point… Its way to circumstantial of a concept to use for court cases… its to the degree I was falsely "me too'd" years ago because I didnt sleep with her and she was upset, yet she didnt want to do police or hospital rape tests (bc it would come back negative) yet I got kicked out for life of a huge volunteer group i spent 3 years volunteering in (yes that means no pay/ and I mean 3 years of 50 hour 5 day work weeks)… DNA would put me in the same room with her but nothing more than that, I even asked for her to get a rape kit scan bc of the allegations she put on me… she refused bc she said it would be "too hurtfull"… come to find out, she did the same thing to 2 other volunteers on 2 other disaster response sights and eventually got banned, yet Im still considered a sex felon by All Hands and cant return…

  17. Not sure I am ok with any government body having the ability to “identify” me wether or not I’m guilty of anything. But let’s be real. Nobody is going to do anything. It’ll take a nazi level event to make any substantial change in the USA.

  18. Thank's to the wonderful professor at Leicester University in England for discovering how to identify people by their DNA. Colin Pitchfork was the first killer convicted by his DNA profile.

  19. That health insurance example scared the crap out of me. Of course our health system would do that here in the US! Of course, the only thing stopping them is potential regulations. They might already be doing it!

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