Shocker, not: Major DNA testing company sharing their data with the FBI

You really want to trust big government with your DNA?

Stay far, far, FAR, FAR away from these DNA testing companies. While you believe it may be a good mechanism to help solve crimes, DNA test results can also be used against you.

From MSN: The decision by a prominent consumer DNA-testing company to share data with federal law enforcement means investigators have access to genetic information linked to hundreds of millions of people.

FamilyTreeDNA, an early pioneer of the rapidly growing market for consumer genetic testing, confirmed late Thursday that it has granted the Federal Bureau of Investigation access to its vast trove of nearly 2 million genetic profiles. The arrangement was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

Concerns about unfettered access to genetic information gathered by testing companies have swelled since April, when police used a genealogy website to ensnare a suspect in the decades-old case of the Golden State Killer. But that site, GEDmatch, was open-source, meaning police were able to upload crime-scene DNA data to the site without permission. The latest arrangement marks the first time a commercial testing company has voluntarily given law enforcement access to user data.

The move is of concern to more than just privacy-minded FamilyTreeDNA customers. One person sharing genetic information also exposes those to whom they are closely related. That’s how police caught the alleged Golden State Killer. A study last year estimated that only 2 percent of the population needs to have done a DNA test for virtually everyone’s genetic information to be represented in that data.

FamilyTreeDNA’s cooperation with the FBI more than doubles the amount of genetic data law enforcement already had access to through GEDmatch. On a case-by-case basis, the company has agreed to test DNA samples for the FBI and upload profiles to its database, allowing law enforcement to see familial matches to crime-scene samples.

FamilyTreeDNA said law enforcement may not freely browse genetic data but rather has access only to the same information any user might.

“The FBI does not have unfettered access to the FamilyTreeDNA database,” Bennett Greenspan, the company founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The genealogy community expressed dismay. Last summer, FamilyTreeDNA was among a list of consumer genetic testing companies that agreed to a suite of voluntary privacy guidelines, but as of Friday morning, it had been crossed off the list.

“The deal between FamilyTreeDNA and the FBI is deeply flawed,” said John Verdi, vice president of policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, which maintains the list. “It’s out of line with industry best practices, it’s out of line with what leaders in the space do and it’s out of line with consumer expectations.”

Some in the field have begun arguing that a universal, government-controlled database may be better for privacy than allowing law enforcement to gain access to consumer information.

FamilyTreeDNA said its lab has received “less than 10 samples” from the FBI. It also said it has worked with state and city police agencies in addition to the FBI to resolve cold cases.

“The genealogy community, their privacy and confidentiality has always been our top priority,” the company said in an email response to questions.

Consumer DNA testing has become big business. Ancestry.com and 23andMe Inc. alone have sold more than 15 million DNA kits. Concerns about an industry commitment to privacy could hamper the industry’s rapid growth.

Since the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer, more than a dozen other suspects have been apprehended using GEDmatch. By doubling the amount of data law enforcement have access to, those numbers are sure to surge.

“The real risk is not exposure of info but that an innocent person could be swept up in a criminal investigation because his or her cousin has taken a DNA test,’’ said Debbie Kennett, a British genealogist and author. “On the other hand, the more people in the databases and the closer the matches, the less chance there is that people will make mistakes.’’

DCG

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Shocker, not: Major DNA testing company sharing their data with the FBI
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SeumasSteven BroilesTPRLophattTrailDust Recent comment authors
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Dr. Eowyn
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Maryaha
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Maryaha

I wouldn’t trust the FBLle with the DNA of a goldfish.😎 I saw an article a while back about a group of serial killers known as the Smiley Face Killers. They have been killing young men for about 20 years, and none of the cases have been solved; they are all considered to be suicides or accidents. The young men they kill appear to all have things in common: good looks, very intelligent, athletic, college age, great personality and very outgoing. Their bodies are found in very cold water in lakes and rivers, and there are smiley faces along with… Read more »

TrailDust
Admin

Saw that one coming a mile away.

Lophatt
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Lophatt

Yeah, who’d a thunk? I have to admit that my daughter-in-law bought us tests one Christmas and we took them. I’m happy to announce that I’m the whitest Northern European (mostly British) you’ve ever encountered! I wasn’t surprised. Anyway, DCG’s bowl is a good analogy. What I’ve noticed recently is that if I see a doctor for anything, I’m suddenly bombarded by ads for medical equipment, etc.. Now, its pretty obvious that somebody is selling information. It’s like when you search for something and have to suffer ten months worth of buggy whip ads. They are just getting started. Unless… Read more »

TPR
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TPR

NO SURPRISE, saw that coming a mile away, & especially with a company founder named (((Greenspan))). And woopie, a full 12 suspects found via DNA. That’s either a lie, or most likely, the real lie is that catching criminals via mass DNA collection is not the purpose for same, but something more sinister (depopulation, or etc.). As for the Cold Water Killers, I had not heard of those either, terrible! Per the prior FOTM article re organ transplants & the “Brain Death” lie, I don’t see how truly dead organs from a truly dead person (heart stopped, breathing stopped) could… Read more »

Steven Broiles
Member

Aldous Huxley made a seminal speech at Berkeley in 1961. In it, he said that all that was needed was the technology, and the state would be able to keep tabs on every human being alive. Impossible to believe 58 years ago, but we have that technology now. Not only can one’s DNA be mistaken for someone else’s, but Big Pharma can make both the disease(s) and the cure(s) for someone’s specific DNA. Thus they can get us sick, and charge us our life’s savings to provide the cure! Don’t think it’s possible? It’s already happened. One thing I’ve learned… Read more »

Seumas
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Seumas

Arguably, the “trivia” nature of these genetic testing companies is what they use to trick the public into surrendering their DNA, a sort of huxleyian Totalitarianism tactic, although I suspect that there is no true “trivia” to these tests and that rather each corporation doing it is simply acting as a front for widespread DNA collection, and only pretending to be for novelty, I mean, should we really believe they would waste those kinds of funds and lab equipment on a regular citizen, which is generally held in contempt by the corporate heads and their sponsors? What caused these companies… Read more »