DNA testing company FamilyTreeDNA will now grant users the right to block law enforcement agencies from accessing their genetic data.
The company decided to make the changes after it had received disapproval for allowing the FBI to access its database without customers’ consent.
Last January, it was reported that FamilyTreeDNA changed its terms of service to allow law enforcement agencies to use their services to identify suspected criminals.
What the agencies would do is create accounts on the company’s website using genetic data from unsolved violent criminal cases. The agencies would then try to search for possible DNA matches from the site’s vast genealogy database in an effort to crack those cases.
The cooperation between FamilyTreeDNA and the FBI marked the first time a private company has approved to voluntarily permit law enforcement agencies to gain access to its database. This move raised privacy concerns and received widespread criticism from customers, prompting the DNA testing company to make changes to its terms and conditions.
Law enforcement agencies are now required to create profiles under a “special process” in order to gain access to FamilyTreeDNA’s genetic database, the company said in an e-mail summarizing the new changes to its terms of service.
“If you do not wish to be matched with these designated law enforcement registered users, you have the ability to opt out by adjusting your Matching Preferences, which now includes an option to opt-out of Law Enforcement Matching.” said the company.
“User accounts created prior to March 12th, 2019 that are flagged as an EU account have been opted out of Law Enforcement Matching but may choose to opt-in,” it added.
Thanks to genetic genealogy and DNA database technology, law enforcement agencies have successfully cracked a number of violent criminal cases, years or even decades after the crimes were committed.
Using FamilyTreeDNA’s database, police in California managed to identify a suspect for the 1998 brutal rape of a 31-year-old woman and a 9-year-old girl. The suspect, named Kevin Konther, was just arrested back in January.
Another violent case that was also solved using FamilyTreeDNA’s database was that of James Neal in California. Thanks to FamilyTreeDNA, police managed to identify James Neal as a suspect for the abduction and murder of 11-year-old school girl, Linda O’Keefe, back in 1977.