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February 14, 2018

What Your Genetic Test Might Tell Law Enforcement

Woman taking DNA test

Curious about your ancestry? Are your ancestors from Kenya, Kazistan or Cairo? You can unravel the mysteries of your genetic background by sending your saliva in to 23andMe.com or Ancestry.com to determine the genetic information contained in your DNA.

But you may not be the only one interested in your unique genes, chromosomes and proteins. The police might be interested if they need help in unraveling a crime and your DNA results may provide the clues needed, whether you want it to or not.

The Main Concern with Genetic Testing

With a legal warrant, these genetic testing companies may have to hand over your personal information to law enforcement. The website 23andme says it has to respond to government requests for data. It’s contained in the privacy policies fine print you sign when you do business with them.

The Miami Herald reports that 23andMe has received a request for the genetic information for five individuals. So far, the company reports it has not turned over the profiles, but it reserves the right to do so.

Genetic testing can connect you with cultures across the world. But the Farah & Farah lawyers advise you to be cautious.

The fine print of Ancestry.com says it “requires valid legal process in order to produce information about our users,” but that it does comply with legitimate requests.

Back in 2016, Ancestry shared information on nine individuals with eight government agencies investigating identity and credit card theft. Since genetic testing identifies your unique DNA, it can also link you to another person. It’s known as familial matching.

In one case, Ancestry reportedly handed over a client’s DNA test results without a warrant. Police sent a semen sample to be scanned and compared to the Ancestry database.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports there were 41 familial matches and one was a very close match to the suspect in the 1996 rape and fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Angie Dodge from Idaho.

Christopher Tapp was sentenced to life in prison for that crime, but police thought he may not have acted alone. Police eventually found Tapp’s relative was not a match.

How Consumers Can Stay Safe When it Comes to Genetic Testing

Consumers may want to take some precautions. You can use any name you want to sign up with a DNA testing service. On the other hand, wise consumers can request that their DNA result be deleted from the company’s database.

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