GEDmatch Acquired by Verogen

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Until this afternoon, I had never heard of Verogen. Today Verogen “joined forces with” GedMatch. Based on reading the details, while the GEDmatch personnel are staying involved, the ownership and management appears to have passed to Verogen.

I didn’t know about this in advance, but I’m not surprised. Curtis Rogers, one of the GEDmatch owners is in his early 80s and already retired once in his life. GEDmatch needs modernization and Verogen has committed to breathe new life into GedMatch which provides tools not available elsewhere and much loved by many genealogists.

The press release is here.

Verogen

Verogen is a forensic genomics firm founded in 2017 to focus on the challenges of human identification and improve public safety and global justice for all, according to their website.

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The graphic above and below, from their website, explain their focus.

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According to this 2017 article, DNA equipment supplier Illumina is a Verogen partner and this May 2019 article states that the FBI has approved Verogen’s forensic DNA sequencing system and underlying technology.

I have been and remain supportive of investigative genealogy in order to identify deceased bodies and to bring violent criminals to justice. Another benefit of this technology is the ability to exonerate those wrongfully convicted.

The question for today, though, is how this affects genealogists as GEDmatch users.

Upcoming Changes

The press release states that GEDmatch users will see improvements in the future, such as:

  • Increased stability
  • Optimal searchability
  • Enhanced homepage
  • Increased functionality

With regard to the GEDmatch vision and terms of service, that won’t change “with respect to the use, purposes of processing and disclosure of data.”

In other words, the way GEDmatch works now is the way it will continue to work, at least for the time being. Companies change thier terms and conditions routinely, are bought and sold, just as this is a change from previous terms.

The press release goes on to say that as many as 70 violent crimes have been solved to date using genealogy searches, although they don’t say through GEDmatch specifically. Family Tree DNA also allows uploading forensic kits after a verification process for law enforcement (LE) matching. That’s roughly 1 case per week solved which means closure brought to families and villans being identified and taken off the streets, making everyone safer.

I’d wager that there are many more cold cases in the process of being solved given that multiple companies have now announced forensic genealogy research services.

“Never before have we as a society had the opportunity to serve as a molecular eyewitness, enabling law enforcement to solve violent crimes efficiently and with certainty,” Verogen CEO Brett Williams said.

“Still, our users have the absolute right to choose whether they want to share their information with law enforcement by opting in,” Williams said. “We are steadfast in our commitment to protecting users’ privacy and will fight any future attempts to access data of those who have not opted in.”

One interesting aspect of this announcement is that GEDmatch has 1.3 million users and as many as 1000 people are uploading daily. That’s great news for those of us who utilize their tools as genealogists, and law enforcement too, assuming that at least some of those people opt-in.

The press release goes on to say that Curtis Rogers, one of the founders will continue to be involved with GEDmatch as this partnership moves forward.

How does this affect you today?

GEDmatch

Users when signing on to GEDmatch must read the updated terms and conditions that state that GEDmatch is “operated by Verogen, following the acquisition by Verogen of the website.”

Whether people *actually* read, or not, they must then choose one of the following 3 options:

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There can be no question whatsoever that users didn’t have the opportunity to make a choice, because you cannot enter the GEDmatch/Verogen site if you don’t make a selection.

If you choose Option 2, Reject, your entire account along with all of the kits and GEDCOM files are deleted permanently.

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I did not delete my account.

For the record, “Decide Later” does not mean that you can use the site until you decide. It simply returns you to the login page.

To access the GEDmatch site, meaning your account and tools, you MUST accept Option 1, indicating that you agree to all of the terms of service.

This also applies to any other kits you have uploaded that you manage, so be sure that the kits fit the criteria as set forth by GEDmatch, and that you have obtained permission of living individuals and discussed their LE opt-in preferences.

You can of course delete any individual kits after agreeing and signing in or change options.

GEDmatch/Verogen Terms of Service

I read the terms of service several times and found nothing unexpected or alarming, given that I was already aware that my kits that I have opted-in for LE are being utilized in forensic and law enforcement matching for identification of remains and violent criminals.

If you aren’t aware of that and how the site works in that general, this is a needed review anyway.

Every person needs to read the terms of service and decide how to proceed for themselves.

You can read the updated terms of service below which actually serves as a great overview of the GEDmatch options and services, or if you are a user, sign on to your account and you will see the same verbiage.

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40 thoughts on “GEDmatch Acquired by Verogen

    • I don’t know but I would presume so if your account is gone. You can email the link and ask at the end of their terms.

    • If you made your subscription payment through PayPal (like I did), you can always login to PayPal and terminate the subscription that way. The same would be true for an automatic payment from a bank account or a credit card.

  1. It has not been that long since we had to agree to new terms at GEDmatch. It is essentially the same policy we have already agreed to in the past. And all my settings and privacy options are the same. No changes.

    One improvement I have already noticed. While I am working and going back and forth between GEDmatch and document apps and email, I am not being signed out and redirected to the login page. That is a refreshing change!

    Verogen has the technical means to make some really positive changes to the GEDmatch site.

    • Being as GEDmatch has pretty much dried up as a source of new matches for me, Verogen probably can’t make things worse. Before all of the “law enforcement” thing, with the attendant news stories mentioning GEDmatch, I regularly saw a dozen or so new people a week, and those who uploaded from Ancestry were a welcome sight. Now, I perhaps have only two or three deep green matches at any given time.

      Today, my ABC News app mentioned this acquisition, and of course tied it to the Golden State Killer case. I predicted a chilling effect from news coverage of this new means of detective work, and it seems that I’m right. Even at “safe” sites like 23andMe and MyHeritageDNA, I find new people to be less responsive to inquiries about their heritage that I request in order to build trees for our shared segments. I also notice that more 23andMe new testers are refusing to select open sharing, and of those that do make that choice, a smaller proportion are responding positively to my request to share genomes, much less family tree information.

  2. I already commented about this on Judy Russell’s site, but I think it’s a rotten outcome. People may begin to (rightfully?) distrust GEDMatch if they believe it’s turning into just a private crook-catcher database and no longer primarily for we family tree finders. Verogen is not a charity and I don’t think they expect to get rich off Tier 1 fees. What else?

    The wonderful GEDMatch may lose users and wither. The rest of the genetic DNA sites may get fisheye fallout, too.

    • It would be a real shame to see GEDmatch wither. If that happens, the “Ancestry can do no wrong and GEDmatch can do no right” crowd will have played a shameful role. I suspect that if GEDmatch had as much money and influence as Ancestry, many would be singing a different tune.

    • If you know someone has panicked and about to delete, send them Roberta’s post!

      The policy is the same and Curtis Rogers has had most of it posted on the GEDmatch home page at times during the past two years. No need to panic.

      We still have the ability to opt out of law enforcement access or to opt in if want to help. It is the courts who will decide what law enforcement can do with that.

      Ancestry and other sites have also had requests and subpoenas for access. It is not just GEDmatch. Ancestry has the most matches and the most trees so they can use that. They do use the public trees!

        • I understand this. But it was created for genealogy, and when I joined, I carefgully studied the objective and goals before accepting. These fundamental goals have changed. Therefore, so has my agreement.

          • I’m not taking issue with your decision. Many people erroneously believe that GEDMatch was nonprofit, and it wasn’t.

      • Who do you trust? By a “private corporation” do you mean one that is owned by a single group or person? Or do you mean corporations that are traded on open exchanges where the public can freely choose to participate?

    • They will make money by providing an improved free service, with the hopes of people opting in Law Enforcement (their clients who pay).

      1000 new people joining everyday, and even if only 1% opt in, it’s worth it to them.

      Your better believe that they’ll make sure gedmatch is compatible with will ALL public DNA providers raw data files. Verogen will have a monopoly with Ancestry, FTDNA, et al customers in board.

  3. I don’t agree that everything is just nice and nothing to worry about. It’s a Forensic company and they are there for a reason. The previous owner made clear choices and decisions about allowing LE access for million of users and now it is a definite step in that direction – a forensic company. GEDmatch is no longer a genealogic database – it is converting to a public forensic database for searching criminals.

    • Agreed. Though I don’t mind and even want to support law enforcement, and had opted in with several of my GEDMATCH kits to help law enforcement, once a community service is sold to a private corporation, I’m out. There is far too much evidence of corruption worldwide for me to agree to remain trusting of empty promises.

      • To what kind of corruption do your refer? Many seem worried about retroengineering for snp determinations. In that latter case, I believe the genetic genealogy community would do a great service were it to educate the broader community. Namely, 700,000 snps is about 0.023% of the entire genome. Despite the false promises of marketers, that is way too little to mean very much medically (other than the 23andMe 12 medical conditions approved on by the FDA, conditions one can’t do anything about). As far as insurance companies getting ahold of 0.023% of one’s genomic information, they should be collectively sued if they think they can infer anything medical from such, let alone should they presume to discriminate on the basis of such. There is too much false information floating around and we need correct the record somehow, not only to save ourselves, but to prevent false advertising by companies.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up Roberta. I have decided to delete all my kits and my entire profile and registration from GEDMATCH. In light of the rampant corruption worldwide, I take this step every time a service created by regular people for the benefit of other regular people is taken over or sold off to a private corporation.

  5. Thanks for informing us, Roberta. I’ll let my Family Tree DNA project members know.

    I have greatly enjoyed using Gedmatch – but I just deleted my account and all my data. And if any law enforcement ever get in touch with me about diddly squat, I guess I’ll be going to jail! WITH full media coverage. If they’re that stupid. Which they are.

    • I hope you are not referring to law enforcement as stupid. My son is an extremely bright and ethical special agent and is anything but stupid. Our police officers wear badges and put themselves in harms way every single day, risking their lives every single time they go to work, for not much pay, in order to keep Americans, including you, safe. Please temper your comments here.

      • I’m surprised you allowed her earlier insulting comments, above, to go through. And she’s an FTDNA project administrator ? I’ll be reviewing my projects to be sure I’m not in any of hers. One can disagree without being disagreeable.

  6. I just logged in and accepted the terms of service to find that my four DNA kits I had uploaded several years ago have just vanished into thin air as I see the message ‘You have not uploaded any DNA kits’ – hopefully it’s just a temporary problem…

    • I saw reports of that yesterday. One person said they signed out and back in and all was fine. Yes, hopefully temporary.

  7. Roberta, I am sure that your son and many other law enforcement personnel are incredible people and we need them. HOWEVER, we also know that there are plenty of law enforcement folks who are not okay…just look at the voluminous information available on erroneous convictions and the abuse of law enforcement power throughout the country now and in the past. I am an attorney (no longer practicing) and have knowledge about this through years of experience. Even the judicial gatekeepers often fail to protect us from abuse of power (and participate in it).

    I personally believe people should be cautious.

    I removed my information and the kits I manage some time ago from Gedmatch. I worry about information available through Ancestry, My Heritage and FTDNA but at least they do not have a conflict of interest inherent in their ownership structure.

    Just my two cents.

    • Caution is removing your data is fine. Blanket disparagement of law enforcement is not. We are all just 1 rape or murder away from needing these services.

  8. The following article comes from the Electronic Frontier Foundation which promotes and supports free speech, transparency and privacy.

    “Genetic Genealogy Company GEDmatch Acquired by Company With Ties to FBI & Law Enforcement—Why You Should Be Worried” By Jennifer Lynch December 10, 2019.

    The following paragraph is just part of the entire story which I encourage everyone to read in full:

    “However, whether individual users of genetic genealogy databases have consented to law enforcement searches is somewhat beside the point. In all cases that we know of so far, law enforcement isn’t looking for the person who uploaded their DNA to a consumer site, they are looking for that person’s distant relatives—people who never could have consented to this kind of use of their genetic data because they don’t have any control over the DNA they happen to share with the site’s users.”

    The full article can be found here:
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/12/genetic-genealogy-company-gedmatch-acquired-company-ties-fbi-law-enforcement-why

    Note, I am not suggesting that one point is right and the other wrong or vise-a-versa. I just believe in having all and any available information so that an informed opinion may be made by the reader.

    Cheers,
    Michael

    • That exact same point can be made about genealogy or searches for biological parents. The exact same technique is used by adoptees, and in many cases the biological parents do not welcome being found.

  9. I just deleted mine but then after reading this I am wondering if I should have left it. I have also not opted in to law enforcement using my dna, but I have felt conflicted about it. You make a good case as to why it should be used. My concerns are less about law enforcement using it to catch a criminal and more about concerns about how carefully they would handle my dna if it could be in the wrong hands somehow, and also wondering about how accurate dna is in catching criminals, it seems like it should be incredibly accurate, and this is probably a terrible comparison but ethnicity estimates and using dna for genealogy, ie finding family is not always an exact science, I would hate to think that I could contribute to someone going to jail under false pretense. I also have an interesting situation in my family where my mother had a bone marrow transplant and carries my aunts dna, so I know first hand that dna can be tricky, the family “joke” is that my aunt could commit a crime and pin it on my mom. But I may not be understanding the science of forensic dna perhaps it is more foolproof than using it for genealogy.

    • DNA in this context is only used to generate leads for investigation. DNA is then collected from the suspect to see if it matches the perpetrator.

  10. Hi Roberta, your expertise is greatly appreciated. I’m English living in England and very aware that most of this conversation is relevant to the USA. Can law enforcement agencies in countries such as China gain access to the data?

  11. Roberta, I am new here and have a question which may have already been answered. The site says users will not be able to delete their information/account. But I see here many individuals writing the opposite – that they have removed their accounts. Can you or can’t you? Just curious.

    • There’s a difference between deleting your data and account, and downloading you DNA file. You can absolutely delete everything. You and no one else can download your DNA file itself once uploaded. I think that’s what you mean.

  12. I’ve rejected the new Verogen T&C’s and therefore my kit data etc. – I think.

    I had 5 kits linked to my account but only ONE kit was confirmed (on screen) deleted. But no confirmation by email was sent by GEDmatch as of my proof of that being the case.

    Also, only 1 kit out of 5 was stated as being deleted. What’s happened to the other 4 kits data etc.?

    Has anyone else had issues with deleting kits?

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