Changes to GEDmatch Terms of Service

+19 votes

On May 20, 2018, GEDmatch altered its terms of service to reflect their endorsement of the use of the GEDmatch database by law enforcement:

Raw DNA Data Provided to GEDmatch

When you upload Raw Data to GEDmatch, you agree that the Raw Data is one of the following:

  • Your DNA;
  • DNA of a person for whom you are a legal guardian;
  • DNA of a person who has granted you specific authorization to upload their DNA to GEDmatch;
  • DNA of a person known by you to be deceased;
  • DNA obtained and authorized by law enforcement to either: (1) identify a perpetrator of a violent crime against another individual; or (2) identify remains of a deceased individual;
  • An artificial DNA kit (if and only if: (1) it is intended for research purposes; and (2) it is not used to identify anyone in the GEDmatch database); or
  • DNA obtained from an artifact (if and only if: (1) you have a reasonable belief that the Raw Data is DNA from a previous owner or user of the artifact rather than from a living individual; and (2) that previous owner or user of the artifact is known to you to be deceased).

'Violent crime' is defined as homicide or sexual assault.

It should be noted that in many countries (e.g. Canada) and states, the crime of "sexual assault" does necessarily imply either rape or violent action. 

Other changes appear to be designed in relation to the GDPR. The revised terms of service can be read here:

There's a good blog post, by Debbie Kennett, discussing the changes here:

in The Tree House by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (141k points)

3 Answers

+3 votes
Ya - the expansion in the use of GEDmatch by law enforcement agencies pretty much spells the end of the 16 tests from relatives that I uploaded to GEDmatch.  There is no way that any of my relatives would give their consent to be part of a DNA database that is used for law enforcement.

I switched all of my kits to private last week.
by Ray Jones G2G6 Pilot (164k points)
But did you ask them?
Yes I am always very clear with my relatives when I ask them to test that I will only use their data for our family history research.  They specifically agree to share their DNA with me for our family history research.

But it isn't just GEDmatch. AncestryDNA is about the only player in the field that doesn't reveal enough detail to be very useful--whether to serious genealogists or to law enforcement. For example, the data uploaded to GEDmatch for the GSK case or the recent one in Washington State could just as easily have been uploaded to MyHeritage. And if a judge grants it, Ancestry can be issued a subpoena for information in their database.

Do we stop all DNA testing for genealogy because an unknown 4th cousin, of which we all are estimated to have about 940 of, committed some serious atrocity years ago? And is this exponentially different than the search for biological parents and the "NPE in the closet" that genealogy testing has provided for over a decade? In fact, the hypothetical felon 4th cousin knows he committed the crime, but the otherwise innocent one-night-stand might be more of a life-changing surprise for the other cousin. I'm not sure there's a clear line in the sand here.

Edison -

I agree with your point in theory, and until last week, I felt exactly the same way about genetic testing.

The big change since last week though is this announcement about GEDmatch:

The fact that there have already been 100 tests from undisclosed law enforcement cases uploaded to GEDmatch makes this an impossible ask to relatives who only agreed to DNA testing for family history research.

GEDmatch is a non-starter at this point since it apparently can be freely accessed at any time for law enforcement investigations.

Yep. I'm familiar with Parabon NanoLabs and the situation there; wrote about it Tuesday:

The point remains, though, that GEDmatch is not unique. The trick is generating compatible SNP data from a sample procured at an old crime scene; that's the part that's difficult to do. Given that SNP raw data in a text file, I can create an account at MyHeritage or FTDNA and accomplish precisely the same thing.

That's why I say the line in the sand isn't clear. GEDmatch isn't unique in this regard, and there has always been the possibility of an unknown biological child surfacing as a complete surprise.

From day one there has been the possibility that genealogical DNA testing of any type would produce information about something we don't expect. Years ago I saw it demoralize, if not send into depression, a man in his late 70s who was, as a final project of legacy for his three children and eight grandchildren, compiling a massive family history of lineage, stories, recordings, and photographs...only to discover that his father was not the biological child of his grandfather, and that his two uncles were not biologically related to him. To me, I would be more concerned about shielding that good man from potentially painful information than I would be about law enforcement uncovering that a 3rd cousin 1x removed had raped and murdered. In fact, give me a call and I'll do what I can to actively help with that latter search.


I am 100% fine with catching rapists and murders and am glad to be of any help I can. I'm kinda suprised at how many people are appalled by that or balking at it. I'm honestly more worried that my DNA could be back-enginered for some sort of science I don't approve of for crime in some way that I cant even imagine, now or with future technology.

The whole one night stand vs rape issue is a whole other ball game. Our society is dealing with drunk consent and all that without DNA issues. I don't know how any of that will be resolved, and DNA in the search just complicates it. I guess if they are found through the search, it stops police wasting time searching? And the accused isn't immediately convicted, although facing a rape case in court will be nasty. I really don't know on that case.

It would be cool if there was an option to opt-in or opt-out of helping crime stopping for anyone who has an issue with it, so geneology doesn't lose out.
Yes, the use of direct-to-consumer DNA databases, and their derivatives, such as GEDmatch, by police agencies will kill off DNA testing.  That's too bad for me, because even after three years of almost daily use of genetic genealogy to try to find my biological family, I have not had the "magic" close match needed to be able to do so.  Now, I see the beginning of the end.

Just today, CBS News had a story about a cold case being solved, and the story prominently mentioned GEDmatch.  Anybody I might ask at to upload there will probably see that in a Google search, and figure that I might just be a cop, looking to collar one of their relatives.

The only way to get the toothpaste back into the tube is for a Supreme Court decision stating that the fraudulent use of consumer DNA databases is an unreasonable search and seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
+7 votes
If people are concerned (for whatever reason) about the possibility of law enforcement using published DNA results, removing or hiding a few kits here or there will likely have little affect. Certainly other cousins can and will upload their DNA results. Perhaps such concerned individuals should sponsor a law requiring law enforcement agencies to gain permission before using publicly-available DNA for legal purposes.
by Bill Vincent G2G6 Pilot (176k points)
+4 votes
I heard that there was an episode of Fox News on this issue.  Turns out CeCe Moore is the leader of Parabon who is the company that went after the criminal.  

You might find this of interest.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (854k points)
Cece isn’t the leader. She was hired on to do research for them. She’s a self admitted non-science amateur sleuth that researches full-time. When law enforcement crack the case, Cece was trying to inform them months prior. Law enforcement didn’t respond to her. But she persisted. She was helping to solve another crime with a group at that company to help other law enforcement.

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