DNA companies have started to pop up all over. While some are excited to make new familial connections, others have wondered if it’s responsible or safe to give companies your DNA. After all, who else would have access to it?
Now, it seems DNA testing company FamilyTreeDNA — one of the largest at-home testing companies — is doubling down on a previously reported partnership with the FBI through a new campaign titled Families Want Answers.
In a statement, FamilyTreeDNA’s president and founder, Bennett Greenspan, said, “The genealogy community has the ability to crowd-source crime solving.”
According to the press release, the company’s terms of service only lets law enforcement get private customer information through a “valid legal process such as a subpoena or a search warrant.”
The rules — and transparency around them — are new. Only two months ago, Buzzfeed News revealed that FamilyTreeDNA partnered with the FBI, giving them access to the agency’s genealogy database.
This raised a ton of vital privacy concerns. Natalia Ram, an assistant law professor at the University of Baltimore specializing in bioethics and criminal justice, told Buzzfeed, “We are nearing a de-facto national DNA database.”
Not too long after, FamilyTreeDNA switched up, so customers could stop the FBI from accessing their information. The company told New Scientist, “Users now have the ability to opt out of matching with DNA relatives whose accounts are flagged as being created to identify the remains of a deceased individual or a perpetrator of a homicide or sexual assault.”
The fact that FamilyTreeDNA continues to switch around its position on this should be alarming. Genetic information isn’t trivial, and this situation validates previous concerns around giving companies access to your DNA.
“If FamilyTreeDNA can help prevent violent crimes, save lives, or bring closure to families, then we feel the company has a moral responsibility to do so,” Greenspan said.
The company plans to use Ed Smart — father of Elizabeth Smart who was abducted in 2002, and held captive for nine months before being rescued —in a San Diego ad this week to advocate for sharing DNA with law enforcement.