Genealogy companies are constantly handling important client information. They could soon find it difficult to keep that confidential client data away from the police. Any efforts to do this could lead law enforcement to obtain search warrants that cover a wider scope. A recent case in Utah shows just how complex this matter could be.
Protecting Clients and Enforcing the Law
After a teenage suspect was arrested for assault in Utah earlier in the year, the genealogy website GEDMatch decided to make a bold move to protect its client’s data. The police had used DNA information available on the genealogy site to crack the case, but this led to public outcry. As a result, GEDmatch closed off its website to law enforcement. While this was well received by the public who were concerned about privacy issues, the matter is far from closed. Experts believe that this move by the genealogy website is far from the end of the matter.
DNA information from genealogies has become an important investigation for police cases. Using such databases, also known as forensic genetic genealogies, was used to catch the Golden State Killer in early 2018. Police were able to identify the serial killer who had committed various crimes in California over 40 years ago.
As a result of the successful investigation, other law enforcement departments have caught on to the technique. Since the successful conclusion of the Golden State Killer case last year, as many as 50 people have also been charged for various crimes including murder and rape using genetic genealogies. The successful matching of crime scene DNA to that of relatives of suspects on GEDMatch has been the key.
GEDMatch allows people to upload their DNA data onto the free site to trace their genealogies. Police have had easy access to this information for their investigations, but with increasing privacy concerns, this is going to be more difficult.