By Kathy Hibbs, 23andMe’s Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer
A Florida judge recently issued a warrant granting law enforcement access to search the database of GEDmatch, a small publicly accessible DNA and genealogy research site. Allowing law enforcement access to GEDmatch’s nearly one million users should trouble anyone who values people’s right to privacy.
It certainly troubles us here at 23andMe.
Perhaps just as disturbing is GEDmatch’s apparent lack of scrutiny and challenge of the validity of the warrant issued. According to reporting by the New York Times, the company opened up its database to law enforcement within 24 hours of the judge’s decision. Given this timing, it does not appear that GEDmatch exhausted all legal avenues to challenge the warrant. In contrast, if we had received a warrant, we would use every legal remedy possible. And to be clear, because our database is and always has been private, we don’t believe that this decision impacts 23andMe.
In our 13 year history, 23andMe has never turned over any customer data to law enforcement or any other government agency. Protecting the security and privacy of our customers’ information is at the core of what we do as a business. Unfortunately, not all businesses adhere to these same principles. That is in part why we warn our customers about uploading their genetic data to third-party, public websites like GEDmatch.
It is also why 23andMe was the first consumer genetics company to openly publish a Transparency Report, which details the number of government requests we’ve received for customer data. To date, we’ve received seven requests for data from 10 of our 10 million customers and we’ve successfully challenged each one. In addition, we aligned with the non-profit organization Future of Privacy Forum and other leading personal genetic testing companies to create best practice industry guidelines to support the industry as a whole in protecting consumer privacy.
All of us have a certain expectation of privacy. In the United States, the Fourth Amendment is meant to protect people’s right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
23andMe believes that people’s right to privacy is worth fighting for. Learn more about our privacy policies here.