I bet this issue gets debated in the courts before long!
The following announcement was posted to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) mailing list by Jan Meisels Allen and is republished here with her permission:
Accessing public DNA databases to find a potential familial match for a criminal act such as murder or rape started in April 2018 when California police used GEDmatch to identify someone whom they believe is the Golden State Killer. Since then there have been many law enforcement agencies that applied the same method to their own cases. Private DNA testing firms such as 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc. have pledged to keep their client’s genetic information private, and GEDmatch, a public site restricted police access earlier this year, by requiring the use to opt-in for law enforcement access to their genetic information.
Last week a detective in Florida announced at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference convention that he was successful to “penetrate” GEDmatch and search its full database of almost one million users. It appears to be the first time a judge approved such a warrant. With a court overruling the company’s policy may be a game changer for those who upload their genetic information to such a site. Remember, when you are sharing your genetic information, that encompasses not only your own personal information, but those family members who share your DNA. It is anticipated that a similar approach will be used to see if law enforcement may access the larger private genetic databases.
FamilyTree DNA, like GEDmatch make it possible for anyone to upload their DNA information and start looking for relatives. FamilyTreeDNA permits law enforcement searches of its database of 2 million users for certain types of crimes.
For more information read: https://www.yahoo.com/news/game-changer-warrant-let-detective-125158273.html.
The article originally appeared in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/05/business/dna-database-search-warrant.html.
Thank you to Bill Forsyth, ProQuest, for sharing the article with us.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee