Law Enforcement Won’t Use Your Ancestry.com or 23andme DNA Kits for Investigations

A lot of negative, and often misleading, publicity concerning home DNA testing has been floating around the news services this week. Many of the news reports are completely wrong. The WCPO web site has a news story and video that clears the clearly refutes the misleading stories. You can read the truth and watch the video at: http://bit.ly/2kb6JLv.

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Yes and no. Generally, what they say about getting their own sample for testing to show the chain of custody would be true. Apparently there are some situations (the article says 9) where legitimate requests were made and supplied. And company promises not to voluntarily share are fine, but if the company is subpoenaed, and if the court orders disclosure, then the company has to turn the information over.

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Uh … maybe. If you live in Cincinnati. But I’m not sure why we should think that what a local Cincinnati cop says would apply to – well, say, the FBI, or the Texas Law Enforcement Division or …. You get the idea. That Cincinnati cop doesn’t speak for any cop outside of Cincinnati so it’d probably be more accurate if Dick’s headline were to read “Cincinnati cops won’t use your Ancestry.com DNA results” – instead of “Law enforcement won’t….”

And, this situation was where the police wanted to get test results of a suspect they had in custody. That particular situation doesn’t bother me.

What bothers me is that – eventually – I think the FBI (or some other law enforcement agency) will try to match DNA evidence they collect that some alleged perpetrator left behind against the millions of DNA results held by companies like Ancestry to see if there’s a match and thereby be able to figure out the identity of the suspect.

I’m not too worried about this (since I don’t intend to commit any crimes) and it hasn’t stopped my from purchasing and sending in DNA kits to Ancestry, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA.

But it will I believe happen eventually (from one or more law enforcement agencies or from DHS) and, when it does, it will be just another slow erosion of privacy here in the US.

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Agree, Walter. Why wouldn’t they? Into to Logic 101.

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    I don’t have the exact link but on the Legal Genealogist blog (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/) Judy Russell says that this (“match DNA evidence they collect that some alleged perpetrator left behind against the millions of DNA results held by companies like Ancestry to see if there’s a match”) is hugely unlikely because the analysis done by the police is totally different from that done by genealogy companies. I think the phrasing was – genealogy companies look for similarities, police etc look for differences – and if there aren’t any, it’s probably the same person. So the analyses done by Ancestry etc are useless to the police. Certainly the police might end up asking for the physical sample – but why on earth would they choose one sample without other evidence?

    James Tanner (http://genealogysstar.blogspot.co.uk/) also makes the point that the trail of evidence is utterly crucial – there is no guarantee whatsoever that the DNA in Ancestry’s hands belongs to the named person, therefore it’s useless as evidence.

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Yes, Bruce, it’s similar to when one has a blood test ordered for one aspect and not another. What confounds me though is if someone hacks into the DNA database and alters it is some way.

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Am I missing something here? People think it is an invasion of privacy for police to match DNA from a crime scene to DNA collected for genealogy. Whether they can or can’t is not the issue here. Police don’t collect DNA for speeding tickets! DNA is collected in murder and rape cases and you don’t want the criminal found because it might invade your privacy! Your privacy is more important than preventing the possible rape and murder of your wife, mother, daughter … or yourself.

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