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There's a New Privacy Concern Over DNA Tests

Family Tree DNA, Ed Smart pitch police use of databases to catch criminals
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2019 10:33 AM CDT
Elizabeth Smart and her father, Ed, who does commercials for a DNA company.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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(Newser) – The pitch from DNA companies has been: Send us a sample, and you'll be able to find distant relatives and fill out your family tree. Now one company has added that, as a bonus, your DNA can help catch a criminal. Family Tree DNA has launched a campaign starring Ed Smart, whose daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped at 14, to implore people to take the test so that victims' families can get answers, the Atlantic reports. The company sells at-home tests, but in addition, people can upload their profiles from other companies on its website. AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage have resisted authorities' efforts to use their databases. But Family Tree DNA allows law enforcement to upload a suspect's DNA profiles to find relatives. BuzzFeed discovered recently that, without notifying its users, Family Tree DNA changed its terms of service to let its database to be used for investigations of violent crimes.

Usually, the person you might be helping to send to prison is a distant relative, which evidently makes it an easier sell, as has the Golden State Killer case. The DNA profile of a woman in Washington state brought the arrest of a second cousin twice removed on a murder charge in Iowa. Her brother was concerned about helping in the arrest of a family member, but the woman said she'd want anybody who committed a crime to "do the time," per the Gazette. "I feel OK about it," she said. (Read more DNA evidence stories.)

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