Your DNA, Your Decision

You might wonder what a naked picture has to do with DNA. Well just like your naked body your DNA is a part of your body. What you do with your body and your DNA is your choice.

If you have taken a DNA test at any of the five DNA companies that offer DNA testing and then taken that additional step to upload your DNA to GEDmatch then you’ll want to read further.

Who knows, you may have uploaded your DNA a long time ago and haven’t given your account much thought. But I’m sure you’ve heard that both sites; GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA, are both being used by law enforcement. As you can imagine both sites have been getting a lot of press about their decision to do so and how they implemented that decision.

But the bottom line it’s about your own decision about how you want your DNA handled.

GEDmatch has been getting a lot of press because of their recent changes to their terms of service. They changed them in 2018 and again more recently a few weeks ago. In 2018 they were changed to include the use of DNA for law enforcement cases that involved rape and homicide and the recent change was to include violent assaults as well.

Due to the backlash for making the last change without contacting first, those that had signed up, GEDmatch made another change and chose to opt everyone out of the matching and left it to us to login and opt in or out. Last week I received an email explaining what had happened and asking me to update my wishes.

I’ve done that but I want you to be sure that you’ve done it as well if you are interested in matching.. any type of matching. I’m not telling you how you should decide. That’s totally up to you. You just need to understand how you need to do it because GEDmatch is handling it differently than say; Family Tree DNA.

At Family Tree DNA they chose to opt you in and so if you didn’t want to be involved with matching for law enforcement (their site is used by the FBI) then you needed to login into your kit or kits and opt out of law enforcement matching. If you’re ok with your DNA being used by law enforecment then you don’t have to do anything.

At GEDmatch it’s the other way around. Until you log in to your account and agree to the TOS you aren’t a part of matching at all. Whether it’s for law enforcement or not. Once you log in and agree to the TOS, if you want to include law enforcement matching then you have to take the additional step of clicking on the word; Police that has the X through it (see below). When you do that you are opting into having that kit be used for law enforcement cases.

Note that you can change your mind at any time by just clicking that Police word again.

As I’ve told you before I handle quite a few of my family members DNA kits so I think it’s important to get an informed consent form signed by any of the people you are managing kits for so you totally understand their wishes.

Let me take that one step further. I want to explain about how GEDmatch works and if you think “oh come on Ellen I know that” then I’m sorry. But I want people to totally understand how GEDmatch works.

So follow this example. Joe is kit # 12345 on GEDmatch and he does a one-to-many report on his kit. There he sees his 2nd cousin on his mom’s side Tammy kit #67891. Joe can then take Tammy’s kit # and run a one-to-many report on that kit. Now Joe can see Tammy’s cousin on her dad’s side; Keith kit #54321. Keith has no relation to Joe but if he chose to Joe can run a report on Keith’s DNA and still see the report.

Why am I tell you this? Well because when I was making my decision about law enforcement I thought for me I know what I decide and I’ll ask my cousins what they want to decide. But actually, if I opt in I’m actually making a bit of a decision for my cousins because even if my cousins are opted out they are still my cousins and relationships can be discovered. You can read more about this on Blaine Bettinger’s blog; The Genetic Genealogist (see the link below).

But the bottom line is that it’s your decision. It’s your DNA and you can choose to do what you want with your DNA. Just like you can choose to do yoga in the nude. It’s your choice.

Also as you ask your family members it’s important to understand that even if you don’t understand why they are deciding one way or another; It’s their decision to make; to opt in, to opt out or to delete their kits altogether.

Below are some links to some of the opinions on DNA and law enforcement

Blaine Bettinger’s Facing DNA Privacy Concerns Head-On With Informed Consent:

Toll Genealogy’s GEDmatch Opt In : A Plea

DNA Detectives CeCe Moore on How Genelaogy Sites Impact Criminal Cases

Thinking you’d like to do a transfer? Check out these Hound on the Hunt blogs.

Transferring Your DNA – Let’s Find More Cousins

Uploading Your DNA to MyHeritage

1 Comment

  • Nan Bailey says:

    Thank you for making it more clear. It is a hard decision just the same as we all want to find matches that will hopefully answer our messages and being opted out does not allow this. Well that/s how I understand it anyway