That saliva sample sent to those genetic testing companies with the purpose of learning more about your ancestral history doesn’t just belong to you.
With a valid legal warrant, it can also belong to law enforcement.
Law enforcement agencies can seek a search warrant requesting information about a user of these DNA and ancestry websites. A warrant normally would have to be approved by a court order.
So far, officials have requested information for five U.S. 23andMe customers, according to the company’s website.
So far, 23andMe has not turned over any genetic information, but would do so on a case-by-case basis, 23andMe privacy officer Kate Black told WJAX. Both 23andMe and Ancestry include warnings within their privacy policies.
“We try to make information available on the website in various forms … through Frequently Asked Questions, through information in our privacy center,” Black said.
According to Ancestry’s website, the company “requires valid legal process in order to produce information about our users. We comply with legitimate requests in accordance with applicable law and our Privacy Statements.”
It continues: “Contents of communications and any data relating to the health or DNA of an Ancestry user will be released only pursuant to a valid search warrant from a government agency with proper jurisdiction.’’
In 2016 the company received numerous requests from police requesting the DNA of its users, but only nine were in compliance with the law, El Nuevo Herald reported. Out of those nine, Ancestry shared information with eight government agencies, all related to the improper use of credit cards and identity theft, according to its Transparency Report.
The genetic testing companies will notify users of law enforcement requests only if it doesn’t compromise an investigation.
And whether you’ve used the services or not, police can still identify you if a family member used one of the genetic testing tools through “familial matching.”
According to Ancestry and 23andMe, the companies allow customers to delete DNA results online.