Future Tense

Could Your At-Home DNA Test Be Used to Crack a Cold Case? A Future Tense Event.

Lab analysis.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by microgen/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

The hit podcast Bear Brook detailed how genetic genealogy—the use of DNA testing in conjunction with family-tree mapping—helped identify the perpetrator of a horrific crime in New Hampshire more than three decades ago. The same technique helped capture the notorious Golden State Killer and has led to the identification of both victims and perpetrators of other cold crimes—at least 23 in 2018 alone.

But the method also raises new questions. Now, your consumer DNA test results could implicate a third cousin you’ve never met in a crime. Do we have an obligation to protect our families’ privacy? Should there be strict limits on how law enforcement can use genetic genealogy?

Join Future Tense on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Washington, D.C., for a happy hour conversation on the cutting edge of crime solving, featuring experts on DNA, law enforcement, and privacy. For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.


Jason Moon, @jasonmoonNHPR
Reporter, New Hampshire Public Radio
Host, Bear Brook

Nila Bala, @nilabala3
Associate director, Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties
Senior fellow, R Street Institute

John Fitzgerald
Chief of police, Chevy Chase Village Police Department


Rebecca Lavoie, @reblavoie
Digital Director, New Hampshire Public Radio
Host, Crime Writers On…

Follow the conversation online using #DNAColdCases and following @FutureTenseNow.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.