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Fourth Amendment Privacy Rights on Genealogy Websites

Newswatch12's Sionan Barrett shows us how popular DNA websites are being used to solve old crimes.

Posted: May. 1, 2018 6:32 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore.- We now know a genealogy website was used to help capture the suspected Golden State Killer. He's accused of murdering at least a dozen people and raping 50. 

GEDmatch is a website where you can upload your genetic history to find relatives. 

You might be wondering if you own your own genes. A local genealogist says you do, until you make your chromosomes public.

Donna Rae Hays, a local genealogist says, "Even on GEDmatch, living people are private to a certain degree but when you put your data out there as a living person it's now available." 

Some think it's a violation of fourth amendment rights, the ability to protect yourself against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Hays says, "Somehow the fact that law enforcement used that without any legal search warrant door court ordered to do it makes people say well wait a minute wait a minute that's like violating our fourth amendment rights."

GEDmatch says they had no idea their database was tapped by authorities. But its privacy clause says your information is public once it's uploaded. 

If you want to make sure your DNA doesn't go into the hands of law enforcement when you upload it to a genealogy site, there's two ways to do it. Call the site to ask for your information to come down, or don't put it up in the first place. 

"We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the [suspected] Golden State Killer,” the GEDmatch said in a statement. “Although we were not approached by law enforcement or anyone else about this case or about the DNA, it has always been GEDmatch’s policy to inform users that the database could be used for other uses.”

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