Five years ago, companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe provided the option of genealogy tracing and medical diagnostic tests for customers who submitted DNA samples. At the time, privacy advocates warned of the potential risks of letting businesses collect genetic databases.
Privacy advocate Jeremy Gruber summed it up in 2010 when he said that genetic material “has serious information about you and your family.” This information, if used beyond the purposes of genealogy tracing, has big implications in law enforcement and government tracking. Wired magazine cautioned, “Your relative’s DNA could turn you into a suspect.”
Currently, the FBI keeps a national genetic database of the DNA of convicts and arrestees. Both companies’ privacy policies state that upon court order, DNA information will be given to law enforcement. Yet, as Wired implicated, people have been wrongly accused of crimes for DNA near-matches in the past.
23andMe recently launched a transparency report, similar to other major tech companies that receive government requests for consumer information, within the next month.
“In the event we are required by law to make a disclosure, we will notify the affected customer through the contact information provided to us, unless doing so would violate the law or a court order,” said the company’s first privacy officer Kate Black.
Ancestry.com will not state explicitly how many government data requests the company has recieved.
“On occasion when required by law to do so… we have cooperated with law enforcement and the courts to provide only the specific information requested,” said a spokesperson.
Article via Fusion, October 16, 2015
Photo: DNA isolation 5 via Patrick Alexander [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]