A new study argues that more than half of Americans could be identified by name if all you had to start with was a sample of their DNA and a few basic facts, such as the region where they live and about how old they might be.
More than 1 million Americans have already published their genetic information, and dozens more do so every day.
…One of them is the rise of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe can sequence anyone’s DNA for about $100.
…The other essential element is the proliferation of publicly searchable genealogy databases like GEDmatch. Anyone can upload a full genome to these sites and powerful computers will crunch through it, looking for stretches of matching DNA sequences that can be used to build out a family tree.
…After a long day of painstaking work, they researchers were able to correctly name the owner of the DNA sample.
The authors said the same process would work for about 60% of Americans of European descent, who are the people most likely to use genealogical websites, Erlich said. Though the odds of success would be lower for people from other backgrounds, it would still be expected to work for more than half of all Americans, they said.
…If you can find a person’s third cousin in a genealogical database, then you should be able to identify the person with a reasonable amount of sleuthing, Erlich said.