Why a Data Breach at a Genealogy Site Has Privacy Experts Worried

From an article by Heather Murphy and published in the New York Times:

“GEDmatch, a longstanding family history site containing around 1.4 million people’s genetic information, had experienced a data breach. The peculiar matches were not new uploads but rather the result of two back-to-back hacks, which overrode existing user settings, according to Brett Williams, the chief executive of Verogen, a forensic company that has owned GEDmatch since December.”

Also:

“Scientists and genealogists say the GEDmatch breach — which exposed more than a million additional profiles to law enforcement officials — offers an important window into what can go wrong when those responsible for storing genetic information fail to take necessary precautions.”

You can learn a lot more in the article at: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/01/technology/gedmatch-breach-privacy.html.

3 Comments

Unfortunately, what law enforcement has done researching genealogyDNA sites is to shed doubt on results used in court. Defense lawyers will now argue DNA is not reliable because it may have been corrupted.
P. Caverly

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    My understanding is that DNA results from genealogical sites are not, and never have been, admissable as evidence in court. This is because there is no chain of evidence (or whatever it’s called) – the initial submission of DNA could, after all, come from anyone.
    In those cases where GEDMATCH has been involved, it’s only provided a hint (sound familiar?) and the prosecution needs to provide DNA samples taken from the accused under proper legal procedure – if DNA is actually part of the prosecution case. At that point, how you got there becomes irrelevant.

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Yes, the DNA matches are used to identity potential suspects that match age, gender and geography. Once one or more potential matches are identified, DNA is obtained from the suspect or their close relatives to confirm the match to crime scene DNA.

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