Your Paranoia Was Right: DNA-Testing Company Shares Data With Gov’t

A prominent consumer DNA-testing company has been voluntarily sharing customers’ genetic data with the FBI.

FamilyTreeDNA / Image: FamilyTreeDNA
FamilyTreeDNA / Image: FamilyTreeDNA

Consumer DNA-testing companies like 23andMe, Ancestry, and FamilyTreeDNA exploded onto the scene promising to unlock the secrets of consumer’s pasts. But is that these companies’ only intention? A recent Bloomberg article noted that one of these companies has been voluntarily sharing genetic data with the FBI. FamilyTreeDNA confirmed last week that it granted the FBI access to nearly 2 million genetic profiles.

Concerns about genetic data sharing came about last April when police used data from GEDmatch to solve a decades-old murder case. That site is open-source, which means police could freely upload DNA data, but this latest development marks the first time a commercial testing company has shared user data, and it more than doubled the amount of genetic data available to law enforcement. FamilyTreeDNA maintains that the FBI doesn’t have “unfettered access” to their database, but others believe the deal is deeply flawed and is out of line with industry best practices and consumer expectations.

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