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But Really, Give Us Your DNA

The Atlantic's Sarah Zhang delves into Family Tree DNA's efforts to get customers to share their DNA profiles to the company's website, touting it as a way to help solve crimes.

In the wake of the alleged Golden State Killer's arrest, Zhang says, forensic genealogy "has become, if not exactly routine, very much normalized."

Family Tree DNA was criticized earlier this year for working with the FBI without informing its customers, she adds, and "instead of backing off, Family Tree DNA appears to have leaned into the controversy." Unlike other DNA testing firms, Family Tree "allows investigators to upload the suspect's DNA profiles to find potential relatives," Zhang reports, though customers can opt out of familial matching, as New Scientist reported last month.

As reported by GenomeWeb in early February, some of Family Tree DNA's other competitors were quick to criticize the company's decision, and stated publicly that they would not cooperate with law enforcement in a similar manner. For example, Kathy Hibbs, chief legal and regulatory officer at Mountain View, California-based 23andMe, told GenomeWeb, "We have clear policies stating we will not voluntarily work with law enforcement, and use all legal means to safeguard our customers' data."

But, according to Zhang, some customers are not concerned if their DNA is used to identify a relative that may have committed a crime. One woman, whose DNA on GEDmatch led to the arrest of a distant cousin for a murder in Iowa, told of The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, "I feel OK about it. I want someone to have to do time if [he/she] did something like that. I don"t regret it now." 

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