At-home DNA testing kits were once little more than a fun distraction that might reveal something about your family history that had been long forgotten. These days, however, the battle over who has access to your genetic testing results is hotter than ever, and a new report alleges that one of the largest private DNA testing companies has been aiding the FBI for months.
First reported by BuzzFeed News, Family Tree DNA admitted that it’s been working investigators to test DNA samples and potentially match them with suspects or their relatives. Needless to say, this isn’t sitting well with privacy advocates.
It’s no secret that authorities are actively using publicly available DNA databases to solve crimes, some of which have long gone cold. However, in past cases the genetic information was obtained from publicly available archives where individuals uploaded their data knowingly.
In this case, Family Tree DNA presents itself as a private genealogy database where customers can have their DNA results compared to countless others in the search for lost relatives and to help fill out their family tree. Their work with the FBI had not been disclosed to any of their customers, and over a million DNA records are already accessible via the family matching feature.
Despite the very obvious privacy concerns this raises, the company seemed comfortable and perhaps even boastful regarding its relationship with law enforcement, releasing an official statement claiming that their agreement to work with the FBI “would help law enforcement agencies solve violent crimes faster than ever.”
That bold stance is doing little to calm the growing dissent among its customer base, which is just now learning that DNA results from months or even years ago have been available for matching with FBI-provided samples since last fall.