'This week, GEDmatch, a genetic genealogy company that gained notoriety for giving law enforcement access to its customers’ DNA data, quietly informed its users it is now operated by Verogen, Inc., a company expressly formed two years ago to market “next-generation [DNA] sequencing” technology to crime labs.
What this means for GEDmatch’s 1.3 million users—and for the 60% of white Americans who share DNA with those users—remains to be seen.
GEDmatch allows users to upload an electronic file containing their raw genotyped DNA data so that they can compare it to other users’ data to find biological family relationships. It estimates how close or distant those relationships may be (e.g., a direct connection, like a parent, or a distant connection, like a third cousin), and it enables users to determine where, along each chromosome, their DNA may be similar to another user. It also predicts characteristics like ethnicity.
An estimated 30 million people have used genetic genealogy databases like GEDmatch to identify biological relatives and build a family tree, and law enforcement officers have been capitalizing on all that freely available data in criminal investigations. Estimates are that genetic genealogy sites were used in around 200 cases just last year. For many of those cases, officers never sought a warrant or any legal process at all.
Earlier this year, after public outcry, GEDmatch changed its previous position allowing for warrantless law enforcement searches, opted out all its users from those searches, and required all users to expressly opt in if they wanted to allow access to their genetic data. Only a small percentagedid. But opting out has not prevented law enforcement from accessing consumers’ genetic data, as long as they can get a warrant, which one Orlando, Florida officer did last summer.
Law enforcement has argued that people using genetic genealogy services have no expectation of privacy in their genetic data because users have willingly shared their data with the genetics company and with other users and have “consented” to a company’s terms of service. But the Supreme Court rejected a similar argument in Carpenter v. United States.'
Read more: Genetic Genealogy Company GEDmatch Acquired by Company With Ties to FBI & Law Enforcement—Why You Should Be Worried
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I have been saying for so many years that the FBI creates fake 'terrorists' and then arrests them - now it's in the mainstream, but still miles from the cutting edge
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