GedMatch Implements Required Opt-In for Law Enforcement Matching

GedMatch has provided an autosomal suite of tools for genealogists that isn’t offered elsewhere for several years now. Their basic service is free but their advanced tools, known at Tier 1, are subscription. GedMatch is comprised of two individuals, Curtis Rogers and his partner. I know them both and have for years.

Every serious genealogist uses or has used GedMatch because it’s the only place that provides the unique blend of tools they offer. In addition to testing at or transferring to multiple vendors, GedMatch is an integral part of fishing in every pond.

However, GedMatch has been under fire for a year.

Law Enforcement Kit Matching

In April 2018, GedMatch made news, and eventually the New York Times, when the database was utilized to catch the Golden State Killer (GSK). I wrote about that here.

GedMatch felt that they were unable to stop the uploading of forensic kits, meaning kits created from evidence left at crime scenes, so they chose to embrace working with law enforcement to catch violent criminals and identify victims whose DNA is obtained from their remains.

How often does this really work?

In the fall of 2018, a paper titled Re-dentification of genomic data using long range familiar searches was published by Yaniv Erlich et al and stated:

“Here, we leveraged genomic data of 600,000 individuals tested with consumer genomics to investigate the power of such long-range familial searches. We project that half of the searches with European-descent individuals will result with a third cousin or closer match and will provide a search space small enough to permit re-identification using common demographic identifiers. Moreover, in the near future, virtually any European-descent US person could be implicated by this technique.”

This certainly gives law enforcement reason to believe that if they could upload evidence kits from violent crime scenes and victims, that they could be identified. The cases solved since that time have proven the paper’s statement to be accurate.

Legally, this is known as “probable cause” and would provide law enforcement with a valid reason to petition the court for a search warrant to order that forensic kits be allowed to be uploaded to identify murderers and rapists. It’s likely that they can be identified, which would justify the issuance of a search warrant.

A few months later, in January 2019, Family Tree DNA began allowing law enforcement to upload kits of murderers, rapists and cases of abduction in addition to deceased unidentified victims after screening and approval on a case by case basis. The Family Tree DNA Law Enforcement Guide is here and their Law Enforcement FAQ is here.

I don’t think a comprehensive list exists of the cases solved since GSK, but I know it’s in excess of 30. Not all solved cases have been revealed at this point.

The Kerfuffle

Within the genetic genealogy community, allowing law enforcement to upload DNA kits in order to identify the perpetrators of crimes and unidentified victims has caused an uproar, to put it mildly. Said another way, it has divided the community in half in an ugly way with both sides feeling they are on morally sound and superior ground.

Although surveys published in this academic article show that more than 90% of people are in favor, some of the genetic genealogy community influencers feel otherwise and specifically, that without every person in the data base giving individual consent for this type of matching, that law enforcement matching is unethical. Some are reasonable and will discuss the situation civilly, and others, not so much.

I disagree, in part, because other types of searches such as for biological parents that can have devastating consequences are viewed in another light entirely with many of these same people employed in the search for unknown parents. These searches using the exact same techniques and databases have resulted in destroyed families and murders.

In one case, Michael Lacopo’s mother murdered her father after Michael identified the father using DNA. You can read Michael’s story, here. There are also other very ugly incidents that I’m not at liberty to discuss.

Law enforcement searches for matches to identify criminals, on the other hand, lead to the apprehension of violent offenders.

I shared my opinion in the article, Things That Need To Be Said: Victims, Murder and Judgement.

Every time a new case is solved and hits the news, the outrage begins anew, culminating this past week when Curtis Rogers allowed law enforcement to utilize GedMatch for the identification of a person who broke into a church in Utah and assaulted the elderly 71 year old organist who was practicing in the church alone, strangling her from behind and leaving her for dead. You can read about the assault here.

Had the organist died, it would have been within the GedMatch guidelines, but because she did not, this was technically a breach of the GedMatch terms of service – although in one place their guidelines said “violent crimes” and from my perspective, there is no question that this event qualifies. Thank goodness the 17 year old perpetrator has been identified and is being dealt with before he actually does kill someone.

Regardless, this episode in addition to other recently solved cases culminated with a number of community “influencers” removing both GedMatch and Family Tree DNA from presentations and openly discouraging the use of both companies on Facebook, in blog articles and in other venues. In other words, a boycott and censure, effectively.

Some of the “influencers” have been repeatedly working with BuzzFeed, as in this Buzzfeed story about the Utah case, yet others called for a more balanced approach that would not destroy the resources, companies and community built over the last two decades. Shannon Christmas wrote a balanced article here as did Maurice Gleeson here.

What Happened?

Yesterday, GedMatch sent e-mails to law enforcement providers and a few others, stating that they were changing their terms of service. The contents of the e-mail have been posted on social media, but I’m not comfortable publishing the exact verbiage, other than to say that GedMatch has proceeded, both initially and now, with the best interests of everyone at heart.

Curtis Rogers is concerned that the extreme paralytic division and resulting polarization  is in essence threatening genetic genealogy as a whole.

Extrapolating from that, if the “influencers” manage to kill GedMatch and Family Tree DNA, not only will the community have lost incredibly important resources that are not and cannot be duplicated elsewhere, law enforcement will have lost extremely valuable resources for identifying both criminals and victims. In other words, everyone loses.

Therefore, GedMatch has implemented a new opt-in policy for law enforcement matching.

GedMatch’s New Opt-In Policy

Effective immediately, GedMatch has set all kits, of everyone in their database, to opt-out, meaning that now no kits at all can be used for matching by law enforcement unless users specifically opt-in. Here’s the GedMatch announcement on their webpage after you sign in.

GedMatch LE opt in change.png

This means that if you are at GedMatch, no kits in your account can now be utilized for law enforcement matching. This is clearly a devastating blow to law enforcement, in part because every database is biased towards whatever the default value is. People either don’t read or don’t bother to make changes. Many have abandoned their accounts or died.

GedMatch has already added an opt-in capability meaning that everyone will have to select “opt-in” to make their kit available for law enforcement matching.

The new GedMatch new Terms of Service are here.

Please Opt-In

We are much better as a society with the likes of John Miller, identified through GedMatch, who raped and murdered 7 year old April Tinsley put behind bars where he can’t damage anyone else. DNA identification has also provided closure to many families whose relatives have been missing for years, such as Audrey Lee Cook and Donna Prudhomme who were killed in the 1980s and whose remains were identified using the Family Tree DNA database.

I hope everyone will opt-in, and quickly, so we can rebuild the data base available to law enforcement for matching.

GedMatch LE opt out.png

Viewing the list of kits that I manage on GedMatch, you can see that my kit is listed with a red X through police BY DEFAULT, even though I never made that selection. Your default is “NO” as well.

Clicking on the pencil enables viewing and changing my profile.

Enable Law Enforcement Matching

Here are the steps necessary to enable law enforcement matching.

GedMatch profile.png

Update – note that I’m told that the options above, with LE and no LE have been positionally swapped – so please read, not just follow my pattern.

Notice my default status is “Public, no LE access.” LE means law enforcement.

GedMatch LE opt in.png

In order to change my status, I must BOTH click the radio button that says “Public, with LE access” AND click Change.

This is a 2-step process and if you forget to click change, you’ll think you enabled LE matching, but you didn’t.

Other options include:

  • “No public access” at all, which means that you cannot utilize the kit for matching
  • “Research” which means you can use the kit for matching, but no one else can see your results in their match list.

After the change, your kit should show the status as “Yes, opt-in LE access,” shown at left, below.

GedMatch opt in success.png

Please take the time to change your kits to “Public, with LE access” at GedMatch to enable matching to law enforcement kits to get the criminals off our streets and identify victims, providing closure to families.

Family Tree DNA

Please also upload your kits to Family Tree DNA for the same reason. At Family Tree DNA, currently if you are in the US you are opted in automatically, and if you are in an EU country you were opted-out automatically due to GDPR regulations. EU users since March 12th when the initial opt-out occurred should check their status. You can change either option after signing in by clicking on “Manage Personal Information,” then “Privacy and Sharing.”

The DNA file transfer and matching are both free. Here are instructions.

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96 thoughts on “GedMatch Implements Required Opt-In for Law Enforcement Matching

  1. “Catch the Golden State Killer”? I’m maybe not up-to-date but to my knowledge the suspect is still innocent until convicted of the crime.

    I suggest you consider rephrasing this part to respect one of the fundamental laws of the justice system.

    This sort of bias (willingly or unwillingly used) is exactly the reason why we should be careful that “DNA found at the crime scene” equals “guilty”.

    It’s up to the prosecution to prove that the suspect in this and many other similar cases is guilty.

    Just my two cents worth, Roberta

    • No. This sentiment is part of the problem that allowed this bad change to occur. There’s a strand of thought, a mental habit, in American culture, to treat the wonderful constitution and legal system with a reverence that becomes religious, elevating it above morality and common sense.

      The Golden State killer has been found. That’s a conclusion that I can draw now, as a thinking human being, before the legal system reaches it’s conclusion. It’s possible that he will die in custody before being tried. That could leave him guilty, as a human being, and innocent, under the law.

      When you say, correctly, “the suspect is innocent until convicted of the crime” you neglected to qualify that statement with “from a legal perspective.” The person who committed these evil acts did something wrong, and was guilty of that from the moment they acted. Whether the law holds them accountable is a different notion. Morality exists separate from the law.

      It’s good and proper that journalists refer to people accused of crimes as suspects, and use words like “alleged”, for the reasons you stated. That doesn’t mean that all discourse should be constrained in that way.

  2. I really, really hope they can send out an email list notifying people of this change. People don’t log into GEDmatch all that often, and I know a LOT of people would like to opt in, but they might not know that they need to now.

    • I agree but I doubt they will because they would have to use a service to avoid being labeled as a spammer, and those services charge per e-mail sent.

  3. Thanks for your clear directions as to how to enable this, from a moral view I had no problems whatsoever in doing it for my own kit. For kits that I manage for other people – well no, not without their direct permission (which I am asking them for). But that does leave me with a dilemma – I manage one kit for a US citizen (I’m a Brit) who has since sadly deceased. Should I enable his kit or not? I’d appreciate any views on that.

    • I don’t know the legal answer if there is one. What would you think he’d want you to do?

      • Does he have next of kin who he would have trusted to make that decision for him? Someone he gave Power if Attorney to?

  4. As I have both of my parents’ DNA on Gedmatch along with mine (I asked them if they wanted to be on there. They said yes.) I will have to talk to them about being in the LE section. I’m sure they’ll say it’s fine. I’ll most likely do the same.

    It’s a good thing that GEDMatch put out the fire this quickly. It’s a good site. I don’t want to see it go under. I will see what I can do regarding Gedmatch. Thanks for keeping everyone in the loop as always. =D

  5. I am thrilled that Gedmatch made LE matching opt-out the default. Family Tree has upset me greatly with making their default opt-in. If someone wants to opt-in that is great but that should be a conscious decision they make not the other way around. Unless law enforcement has just cause to take someone’s DNA because they are trying to solve a crime they should not be allowed to take it. With opt-in being the default that is exactly what they are doing…..taking DNA from innocent bystanders without cause.

    • To be clear, LE is not taking anyone’s DNA. They are can only see if the KE kit matches others. Not take them.

    • I agree with what you said about the opt-in option, but just to be clear on the issue, law enforcement agencies are not “taking” anyone’s DNA. They are using the databases, just as we do for our genealogical work, by looking for matches. They have no access to anyone’s DNA.

  6. Thank you Roberta for your reasoned and balanced assessment of the LE situation. I wish that others who are not so balanced in their comments would realize that they are doing more harm than good to the whole area of genetic genealogy. Everyone can opt out of LE sharing and it is a deeply personal decision and we don’t need to be told by others what that decision should be.

    • You just stated the crux of the problem. By Family Tree making the default opt in they are telling others what their decision should be or what Family Tree thinks it should be. Many, many people do not sign onto their accounts. Those accounts sit there with the opt in option in force with the kits matching at LE’s use. Gedmatch made the correct decision and the ethical decision for opt out to be the default. If and when a user signs on at that point they can make a decision whether they want their information to be used by LE.

      Plus, Family Tree’s opt out button is confusing. It doesn’t say anything about opt out. All it says is opt in and if you have already selected to opt in to sharing in general then the LE button is also blue and says opt in. There is nothing said about opt out. You can click on the button and it turns from blue to grey but it still says opt in. If Family Tree wants to be transparent (which I don’t think they want to be in this matter) they could have two separate buttons with one saying opt in and the other saying opt out. This would be much clearer.

      • It’s like the rest of their options, but I do think it would be less confusing the way you suggested.

    • Taras, are you saying that the best thing I can do to the whole area of genetic tenealogy is to RE-upload my DNA to GEDmatch and FTDNA so that LE can have access to it?

  7. Yours is the most realistic reaction to all the hoop-la about law enforcement access to DNA results. Too many knee jerk recommendations from people with too much influence.

    I have been looking for a 2x grandfather for years and years along with 2 generations ahead of me. I was counting on DNA to solve this problem. Maybe it has and maybe the clue I need has been deleted.

    There is no privacy in this world any more. And that’s the way it is and no matter what happens it will continue with or without DNA sites and whether law enforcement has access.

      • The only thing I can figure, is under class? I’m set to personal. Does that make a difference? I’m on the computer and no pencils available here either.

      • I’m with Ruth. I can’t find any opt out or it. My page has my kit number and my name, but there is no “police” symbol or pencil.

          • Thanks for answering the comments. I had trouble too. I suspect several people did who don’t use GedMatch that often. The link to switch to genesis isn’t obvious but once I switched my page matches yours.

            To complicate matters, GedMatch “frogged” the radio button for “Public, no LE access.” Now the “Public, with LE access” button is on top. I clicked it then clicked “Change” per your instructions. I add my thanks to others for your instructions in this post.

  8. Thanks, Roberta, for sharing your opinion. More importantly, thanks to GedMatch for the opt-in clause. I love GedMatch and have been Tier One for years. Now I am free to opt-in while certain of my family members whose kits I manage are free to remain opted-out while they mull it over and make the decision best for them.

  9. I sent in a GEDmatch file a year or so ago. I’ve never done anything with it because I don’t have the knowledge to interpret the results. I’m learning…..So, I went to the site, logged in, accepted the terms of service. All I can see is my file #, name, Alias. That’s it. No red letter police thing, etc. This implies to me that it’s never been “activated”. So, how do I make it active so I can “opt-in”? I can see the option to delete it but that seems to be the only choice. Thanks.

      • I had problems finding the right place to opt-in, but then realized I was in the older site and I needed to be in the Genesis page. Others may be having the same issue.

          • For those of us who don’t use GedMatch (hardly at all), please update your article to explain the Genesis page. I had to look through all the comments to discover there was such a page, then I had to scroll through the home page to find Genesis. Glad I didn’t give up!!

      • Hi,
        The same thing happened to me.
        I logged in and accepted tge new terms.
        My home page had no police badges by my 2 kits.
        I closed my browser tab.
        I opened a new tab and logged into GedMatch.
        GedMatch asked me if I wanted to access the legacy site orthe new Genesis site.
        I chose Genesis.
        * My home page had a police badge with an X in the middle for both my kits.
        I clicked the pencils to Opt In 🙂 .

        PS – I found out that my family trees weren’t connected, so this was something. PLUS I didn’t know that the trees were connectable as One Match To Many , just like my DNA connects !!
        WOW what great Sunday Evening Fun coming up 🙂 🙂 !

  10. Without getting into the pros and cons of law enforcement using public DNA databases for crime-solving, I have a question that maybe the folks at GEDmatch and FTDNA could answer for me.

    Are crime scene samples clearly labeled as such in the user profile of the “person” who was uploaded? For instance, would it be clear to any user of either of the two mentioned DNA services that a match would be “Phoenix AZ – Crime Scene 12-31-79”, or would either of the two companies allow law enforcement to just use a fake name that is not a “John Doe” obvious name?

    I ask this, because I’d like to be able to reassure my matches that I’m not a cop when I’m looking for my biological parents.

    • I can’t answer that question for you, but my understanding is that the kits are only placed there long enough to view matches and then removed.

      • I would be more comfortable if GEDmatch and FTDNA had a web page up on their sites that detailed their policies about how crime scene kits are treated, if what you understand is indeed their company policies. For that matter, I would like to see the same thing from the other DNA services, saying that they don’t accept crime scene DNA samples, and that everyone in a match list is a real person who consented to the use of their DNA.

        However, with 23andMe selling kits in drug store chains, there is no way for the company to be 100% certain that they have not received a sample that was taken from the person who purportedly gave permission. I can see the potential for non-LEO use of DNA testing for perhaps nefarious purposes.

    • By the way, I have lots of matches that use initials or other non-identifying names, long before any LE kits were in the system, so that’s very common.

  11. Thank you for alerting us to this recent change. As noted in a comment above, I don’t access GedMatch very often so I’m not sure how soon I would have seen this. I have previously had this very conversation with the other eight family members and one friend whose DNA kits I manage. They all agreed that if their DNA helps catch a suspected criminal they would be happy to have contributed. I just set all 10 to be accessed by LE.

  12. Thanks! That’s what I needed to know. I logged in to the old site and was then given the option to go to the genesis (vs. legacy) site. Then I followed Roberta’s directions. Voila! Thanks.

  13. I have a different question. I can’t see how anything Gedmatch or FTDNA does can stop law enforcement from using the service anonymously, since all they are doing is matching the same as the rest of us. Or is it that such evidence wouldn’t be admissible in court because it was obtained without permission?

    • Not that I know of. Did you try the one to one that is not tier 1? Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t upload trees.

  14. The link you provided takes us to Michael D Lacopo’s blog but not the one about Hoosier Daddy. I searched his blog site and the web and was not able to find it. Any suggestions. Thanks.

  15. I don’t like that they will be using it for robbery. I also feel that the case in Utah could have been solved without GedMatch.

    I fully support using GedMatch for cold cases and of course for identifying unknowns.

    I wish they would have more stringent criteria.

    • Linda, it’s a slippery slope. Robbery today, and littering tomorrow. That soda pop bottle tossed by the side of the roadway could yield the name of somebody who threw it there.

      If we double or triple the number the number of people who have tested, most tests of this nature would be able to find a suspect. A jurisdiction could jack the fines for littering, and assess DNA testing costs and analysis expenses as part of the penalty. Once we have artificial intelligence being used to triangulate DNA matches, those costs become minimal, providing further incentive to use DNA for any kind of minor infraction.

      • “Robbery today, and littering tomorrow.”

        Are we so squeamish about security cameras? I don’t understand why this story has been so sensationalized. Perhaps it’s because GEDmatch is so small and easy to pick on?

  16. Rebecca, I just want you to know I agree with you. I don’t see why people are so outraged – why should law enforcement should be excluded from using the same technology that anyone else uses for other purposes? I didn’t realize that there was such polarization amongst the genetic genealogy elite, or that I was on one side of this divide.

    If law enforcement can use these tools to narrow down the field of suspects, doesn’t it also exclude innocent people who could otherwise have been implicated? We know there are a lot of people who spent time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, who were later exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence.

    We know there are people who have committed really bad crimes who have never been caught. I agree with you that attempted murder should qualify as a violent crime – I am pretty liberal politically, but I thought the definition of violent crime by FTDNA was very limited. You could beat someone within an inch of their life, but it’s only violent if you succeed in killing them? Come on, people.

    Here is a definition of violence from Merriam-Webster:
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/violence
    Violence definition is – the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy.

    There are more details, examples, and uses, but this is the primary meaning.

    I also don’t know why people expect that information posted on a public website will be private. I think gedmatch and FTDNA made their previous policies clear before they took these steps. As you say, they have been trailblazers in genetic genealogy. It is unfair to punish them for being straightforward.

    And even if you don’t post it yourself, there is a lot that is out there. I have done searches at ancestry dot com on myself and close, living family members – birthdates and other personally identifying information shows up, even though I privatize living members and their parents in my tree. Even though ancestry privatizes living persons, they still publish any information that is available in public databases. I contacted ancestry, complaining about my relatives vital information being published on their site, and they said there was nothing they could do about it – that if something is already in a public database they publish it. What difference would it make if ancestry doesn’t publish it ? Anyone could easily find the information elsewhere.

    I keep coming back to this: why should law enforcement should be excluded from using the same technology that anyone else uses for other purposes, because they are looking for violent criminals?

    • Most are not saying law enforcement should be excluded. What is being said is that Family Tree, especially, has been non-transparent and heavy handed in instituting the default opt-in. There should big bold red letters at the top of each person’s account (like on Genesis/Gedmatch) that says they are cooperating with law enforcement matching. This should be on all kits/accounts not just new ones. In order to not seem biased one way or the other both choices could be given and the person could select one or the other.

      It’s not right to demonize those who want things done in a transparent manner as if they are against law enforcement and/or finding violent criminals. This is not the case in most instances.

      Family Tree has a very small note at the top left hand section of a person’s page that indicates there is a new privacy policy. (Who reads those things?). Before a person is able to use their account (all accounts, not just new ones) they should have to accept it (as Gedmatch has just instituted) and at the bottom of the privacy policy the option should be given to opt in OR opt out to law enforcement matching. These two things should be done before the person can proceed with the usage of their data. That’s transparent.

      On Gedmatch a person has the choice:
      So the choice is clear.

      Public, with Law Enforcement access

      Public, no Law Enforcement access

      No public access

      Research

      • If we are going to hold both GedMatch and FTDNA to these standards, then we need to hold Ancestry and 23andMe to the same standards for selling our DNA. The information about what opt-in really means is very buried and with neither company can you ask who your DNA has been sold to or for what purposes it is being used.

        • I think Gedmatch ultimately did the ethically correct thing but Family Tree did not, maybe because they are in the business of selling something and do not want that plastered all over their page about law enforcement involvement.

          Yes, I suppose Ancestry and 23&Me have some similar problems. I do not like 23&Me even though I tested with them. I like Ancestry for the research (I did test with them when it was Beta) but deal with them little in the DNA area.

          However, I don’t think it’s necessary to deflect the debate by referring to Ancestry and 23&Me. This is a Family Tree ‘problem’ of credibility. I think their stance on this is totally self-serving and is unethical.

          It will be a hard sale for me now to get cousins to allow me to have them tested with Family Tree(even with me paying for it) if they read about Family Tree. Most have been reluctant to be tested in the past. Most I have had to beg on my knees, paying for the test and with a promise of owing them a favor in the future. These are independent, private people from the mountains of northeast Tennessee, western North Carolina and southwest Virginia. These are extremely independent, private people whose rights will feel violated not only by these companies but by me. My integrity is on the line here and I will fight for it for these people.

          My question is: do those who have stated on here that they opted in on Family Tree (and Gedmatch) for all the kits they administer did you clear it with them first, each one of them?? Did advise them what opting in meant?

  17. Thank you, Roberta … for your “breath of fresh air” into the debate, and also for the very clear instructions on how to opt back in!

  18. Thank you, Roberta, for this beautifully written blog, and for encouraging and facilitating everyone to opt in. With the help of GEDmatch and all their customers we at DNA Doe Project have already identified 12 victims and returned them to their families. 18 more are now in limbo, match lists suddenly emptied overnight. By this evening our broken hearts were cheered to see some of our Does start to accumulate a handful of matches again! Not the 10,000 they had before, but a half-dozen genealogists in the 7 cM range who had opted in all their kits! OK, we likely won’t ask for their trees. But it does remind us that people are good, and that we really are all related 🙂 Thank you and your followers for your part in rebuilding our match lists.

    • Hi Margaret,
      I think you should ask for the trees of your 7cM matches. A lot of us have been at the genealogy and DNA thing for years. My matches are often shocked how easily I can place them, even sometimes down to 5cMs. If I can’t get that far, I can often identify the branch at least and sometimes bootstrap my way to the actual match or very close to it. Or when you do find a closer match who might not know much, we might then be able to get you the rest of the way with our knowledge. It’s taken me years and years to get to that point, but there are other people like me out there. I have often said that the level of the match does not matter – what matters is the research of the people on both ends and their resolve. So a small match should not deter you from asking, especially if there is any indication the match might have some skill (e.g profile has multiple kits loaded, a GED is loaded, a promising profile exists on one or more of the testing sites).

    • From his blog: Harold James “Brighton” Daugherty died, on 25 March 2015, at the hands of the daughter he never knew existed.:

      • The author has a flair for the dramatic. “(D)ied … at the hands of” is not necessarily “murder”.

        • Randy, in the comments, under Michael’s blog of Thursday, September 1, 2016, you will find a post that says, “Sounds like your mom committed patricide”. Michael’s response is “You read it correctly”.

  19. I just wanted to thank you and ask that you thank the Gedmatch folks for making this so easy to do. You gave great instructions. I am the family administrator of 19 kits and dreaded fixing one kit at a time, but was going to do whatever it took to opt in. When I switched to the Genesis product, it listed all of my kits and it was super easy to click on each one and opt in. Please tell them thanks, and again, thank you.

  20. Roberta,

    Well thought out article. I agree and have opted in with LE for all my kits. Please update and clarify in your article that it is on the “new Genesis page” to find how to do this.

    Sadly, I feel most people will not see your article, understand what is needed, and act according; so LE will have lost a valuable tool. A few genalogist have won, but society has lost.

    Paul Baltzer

  21. Thank you for clarifying the changes and for providing the information that encourages everyone to change their privacy settings. I agree with every word and have already changed my settings. Now I’m sharing your blog post on all my favourite online genetic genealogy sites.

    • So following your argument we can save the jurisdiction process and just hang him on the next tree, right?

      Because the GSK is found.

      You do understand that if your DNA is found at a crime scene it doesn’t necessarily mean that you committed the crime.

      You should leave the process of identifying and prosecuting to the professionals and give everyone a chance of a fair trial. Then and only then we can name the now suspect the Golden State Killer is he’s convicted of several of these crimes.

      • While that’s true, it’s pretty difficult to have your semen extracted from multiple women’s vaginas after being raped, and matched to your DNA without “being” guilty. If he gets off for some technical reason, that doesn’t make him any less guilty. No one suggested lynching anyone.

  22. Roberta,
    Thank you for taking a stand on this issue. I am a retired deputy sheriff so I understand the law enforcement side of this more than most people/genealogists do. I have already opted in all of my kits on GEDmatch. I have also posted several times on Facebook explaining the situation and encouraging others to opt in.

    I do not like how this was handled. Instead of everyone being opted out they should have made it so that when you log in for the first time since the decision was made to do this you are presented with a dialog box that you can’t bypass explaining the situation and then allowing you to choose to opt in or opt out. You of course would still be able to change your mind at any time.

    THOUSANDS of people were opted out without their informed consent. Believe it or not, not everyone is on Facebook and not everyone is in the Facebook group where this was announced. Interestingly, informed consent is what the other side has been using as their defense of what happened. However, their argument is not valid because it was already in GEDmatch’s terms of use that law enforcement had access to the database. If you didn’t want them to have access you could simply remove your DNA.

    Thank you again for blogging about this so that more people understand what is going on who are not on Facebook,

  23. This new policy of default Opt-opt doesn’t make any sense to me. It seems like a no-brainier to have all kits searchable by Law Enforcement. I’m not sure when the creators of Gedmatch decided that justice for victims or murder, rape and other violent crimes was a bad idea. I’m not sure when the creators of Gedmatch decided that getting violent offenders off the streets before they can strike again and before they could escalate the violence of their crimes, was a bad idea. Safety and justice should trump petty privacy concerns any day. It’s unclear to me why Gedmatch does not want to build a safer and more secure society by getting violent offenders off the street and potentially deterring other would be violent offenders from acting. People who have not yet experienced violent crime against them or someone they care about may not see my point of view until a they themselves experience it.
    The big winners in all of this people with privacy concerns about their DNA. Sorry violent crime victims and their families, you lose! (said sarcastically)
    My suggestion would be to have opt-in as the default, but give the users a choice when they sign up, letting them know that opting out is an option, but opt-ing in is strongly encouraged for the above reasons.
    I strongly believe in a safer and more secure society against violent crime. GedMatch was (and still could be) a way to work towards this. People need to see that justice and safety trump privacy.

    Gedmath: Turn opt-in for law enforcement by default back on!

    • Also, Considering the initial reaction to using GedMatch for law enforcement purposes was generally very positive, I’m not sure why the creators of the site would up a 180 on this issue out of the blue.

        • I suppose this is the case, but do have have to make decisions just based on the fact that someone puts pressure on you?

          • Curtis was concerned that the magnitude of this issue would destroy genetic genealogy. If GEDMatch bites the dust, then it’s not useful for anyone. GEDMatch is only 2 people plus a couple part time volunteer programmers.

          • Perhaps I can be enlightened on how this issue would destroy genetic genealogy as whole as I don’t see the other side of the argument that well
            I’m not sure how GEDMatch would bit the dust over this issue? People will continue to upload to the site to try and find their biological relatives regardless if there their DNA will be used to fight crime in most cases I believe. The issue of violent crime seems to strongly outweigh privacy concerns imo no matter how you cut it.

          • GedMatch is funded by Tier 1 subscriptions and advertising us fillet word of mouth. Running a site of that size is not inexpensive.

          • Jim,
            Not everybody did DNA tests with the purpose of implicating family members in cold cases. Even though I am glad that some perpetrators have been caught, and are undergoing the legal process to prove a crime, I still find that there is a chilling effect on testing. There certainly seem to be a LOT less new matches showing up for me on GEDmatch, ever since the GSK case became public.

            Also, I have found people much more wary about helping me with their family tree information than they used to be. They have no practical way of knowing that I am not a law enforcement officer, just an adopted person trying to triangulate segment matches to find my family.

            Also consider that many who uploaded to GEDmatch years ago may either be deceased, incapacitated, or simply lost interest in genetic genealogy. They won’t be able to opt out, and their family members could be implicated by staying in, making for significant discomfort for their children, parents, etc.

            It would be convenient if we could fingerprint and DNA test every individual in the US, however, it would run afoul of both the letter and the spirit of the 4th Amendment.

        • And, rightly so. With a new policy, at initial sign on after a new policy is instituted the option should be given to either opt-in or opt-out. It should be a choice with neither opt-in or opt-out being the default. In other words you do not get access to your account until you make a choice. However, I can see this could cause a problem with matching in general. What happens to the hundreds of kits which are no longer visited by their owners. Are they still part of the matching system? That’s why I think Gedmatch is correct in having the opt-out version which can be changed by the kit owner. Law Enforcement matching was not part of Gedmatch when the users opened their accounts. Since this is a new policy then the status quo has to remain until these users sign on, which may be never.

          As for the statement by the retired law enforcement that thousands of people on Gedmatch were opted out without consent, at the same time thousands of people were opted in without consent on Family Tree. It works both ways.

          • Investigators in the GSK case didn’t ask permission. All of this opting in and opting out is largely for the sake of appearances. LE is under no obligation to obey TOS at any of the DNA testing/matching services.

      • I should also add that many (if not all) of the violent cases would NEVER have been solved without the use of Gedmatch. This technique of solving crimes was the only way LE could have solved these crimes. Most of the perpetrators were not on LE’s radar at all when they were identified as suspects.

  24. Thanks for this article Roberta. I manage 6 kits and have set my personal one to opt in for LE. The others are still on the fence. Once thing for certain I am looking forward to the next i4GG Conference…it should be entertaining!

  25. I can find nothing about the killing of Lacopo’s grandfather by his mother in any news source or in Lacopo’s blog.

      • I did. Found nothing except a supposed new link that did not provide an answer. Nothing in newspapers etc. Lacopo’s father commited suicide with a gun. Are you confussed by that?

        • I don’t know what you’re looking at, so here: From his blog: Harold James “Brighton” Daugherty died, on 25 March 2015, at the hands of the daughter he never knew existed. and “In the comments, under Michael’s blog of Thursday, September 1, 2016, you will find a post that says, “Sounds like your mom committed patricide”. Michael’s response is “You read it correctly”.”

          • You must admit it is a tiny , obscure statement for such a momentous event. You are a better reader than am I. Thanks Roberta. I would have never spotted it.

          • Michael intended and intends to finish the story. That’s his writing style if you’ve read his entire series. I remember it well because I was so shocked at the time.

  26. I too initially had problems because I was going to the old site. Once I found my way to the new site I discovered that there were a lot of other changes some of which I wish they hadn’t made. For example it looks like you can no longer sort the results of a one to many result whereas before you could click on any column head and resort based on those values. Have you written anything about Genesis yet or do you plan to?

    • I have not. I believe Kitty Cooper may have. I’m not planning anything in the short term because I’m in the midst of the mitochondrial series.

  27. Roberta, I’m one of those who read every entry of Michael Lacopo’s blog and somehow missed the significance of that last sentence. I keep thinking there must be more information about this murder, but an extensive internet search has turned up nothing. Do you have any other information you could share?

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