FamilyTreeDNA, a pioneer of the at-home DNA testing kit industry, has confirmed that it is cooperating with the FBI to give access to their genealogy database. Nearly 2 million genetic profiles are in play. This marks the first known time of a consumer DNA kit company voluntarily to working with law enforcement to hand over data.
The company released a statement saying that customers can go to their account settings to opt out of matching features – keeping law enforcement agents away from their information. However, this also would not allow users to find distant relatives or other potential family members through the service.
“We came to the conclusion that if law enforcement created accounts with the same level of access to the database as the standard FamilyTreeDNA user, they would not be violating user privacy and confidentiality,” president and founder of FamilyTreeDNA Bennett Greenspan said in a statement
toGizmodo. “In order for the FBI to obtain any additional information, they would have to provide a valid court-order such as a subpoena or search warrant.”
FBI agents will still be able to access your identity and will be able to see who is related to you. This is dangerous information to be at the fingertips of any given FBI agent without prior investigation or a warrant. One of FamilyTreeDNA’s competitors, Living DNA, agrees. David Nicholson,
“At Living DNA we only allow your DNA to be used for what you have asked us to do with it,” continuing on, “We feel a responsibility to our customers who provide their DNA that they need to be in charge of what happens with their DNA. As with all companies worldwide, we will act in accordance with the law but we do not freely open up our database to any 3rd party.”
From a quick glance, this partnership can offer some benefit to public safety. An benefit to the public, however, will come at a cost to the privacy of nearly 2 million people.