The RNA-programmable Cas9 endonuclease cleaves double-stranded DNA at sites complementary to a 20-base-pair guide RNA. The Cas9 system has been used to modify genomes in multiple cells and organisms, demonstrating its potential as a facile genome-engineering tool. We used in vitro selection and high-throughput sequencing to determine the propensity of eight guide-RNA:Cas9 complexes to cleave each of 10(12) potential off-target DNA sequences. The selection results predicted five off-target sites in the human genome that were confirmed to undergo genome cleavage in HEK293T cells upon expression of one of two guide-RNA:Cas9 complexes. In contrast to previous models, our results show that guide-RNA:Cas9 specificity extends past a 7- to 12-base-pair seed sequence. Our results also suggest a tradeoff between activity and specificity both in vitro and in cells as a shorter, less-active guide RNA is more specific than a longer, more-active guide RNA. High concentrations of guide-RNA:Cas9 complexes can cleave off-target sites containing mutations near or within the PAM that are not cleaved when enzyme concentrations are limiting.