GEDmatch Users Must Opt In to Make Profiles Available to Law Enforcement

June 7, 2019
GEDmatch, a DNA database that has been used by law enforcement in a number of high-profile criminal cases for genealogical research, recently changed its policy regarding law enforcement use of the site. The company now requires its users to specifically opt in if they wish to have their information made available for law-enforcement use.

In a letter addressed to users regarding the change in the website's Terms of Service, GEDmatch Management stated, "We wish to make it clear that we strongly support law enforcement. The use of genetic genealogy for providing leads in violent crimes has been called the 'biggest crime-fighting breakthrough in decades.' Its incredible success to date has been due almost entirely to the GEDmatch database. We encourage users who approve of LE use to 'opt-in' (make their information available for use in catching violent criminals). Those who opt-in may never know if their information has been used to catch a murderer, rapist, or otherwise dangerous person. One reason police do not contact users whose information might be used to solve cases is that it runs the risk of alerting a potential suspect. It is also important to note that LE does not have any special access to GEDmatch. They simply use the system and its features in the exact same manner as any member of the public but are limited to seeing only matches with opted-in kits."

Users who do not take action will be automatically "opted out" of having their DNA profiles made available to law enforcement.

"We changed our Terms to require an affirmative action by the kit owner to allow information to be visible to law enforcement because we believe it is the right thing to do," the letter states. "This was a very difficult decision to make because of the temporary immediate impact it will have."

The GEDmatch team expressed concern about the effect this action might have on solving cold cases. "There are millions of victims, including family and friends of violent crime victims and unidentified remains who need some sense of closure," wrote the team. "We have a fast start to rebuilding the LE portion of the GEDmatch database. We encourage everyone who has had a genetic DNA test done to consider helping to build the database for law enforcement use as quickly as possible."

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