Your privacy is important to us. That’s why we want to share our position on a recent event where a Florida judge issued a search warrant to allow law enforcement to search all of GEDmatch, an open data personal genomics database. Following the issuance of the search warrant, GEDmatch opened its database of nearly one million users — beyond those who had consented to such access — within 24 hours. Ancestry believes that GEDmatch could have done more to protect the privacy of its users, by pushing back on the warrant or even challenging it in court. Their failure to do so is highly irresponsible, and deeply concerning to all of us here at Ancestry. GEDmatch’s actions stand in stark contrast to our values and commitment to our customers.
We want to be clear – protecting our customers’ privacy and being good stewards of their data is our highest priority. Not only will we not share customer information with law enforcement unless compelled to by valid legal process, such as a court order or search warrant, we will also always advocate for our customers’ privacy and seek to narrow the scope of any compelled disclosure, or even eliminate it entirely. You can find more information on our privacy philosophy here.
Additionally, each year we release a transparency report that outlines law enforcement requests for member data. To date, we have received no valid requests for information related to genetic information of any Ancestry member, nor have we disclosed any such information to law enforcement.
With regard to this situation, we, together with our partners at The Coalition for Genetic Data Protection, which was formed to advance business practices that ensure the privacy and security of an individual’s genetic data, have issued the following statement:
The Coalition for Genetic Data Privacy is deeply concerned by the recent decision by GEDMatch — a publicly accessible genetic database that is neither a member of our Coalition nor a signatory to the Best Practices — to not challenge the search warrant in the interests of their users’ privacy.
The Coalition believes that individuals deserve the full protection of the law when it comes to their personal and genetic data. This includes an obligation by companies who process genetic data to commit resources to closely scrutinize and challenge the validity of any warrant, including where the warrant may infringe on individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights.
When our users choose to upload their personal genetic data to other services that do not adhere to our Best Practices, they should carefully consider the commitments made by such services as they relate to law enforcement access.
It is incumbent on any company entrusted with sensitive personal information, including genetic data, to approach the issue of law enforcement access with a high degree of scrutiny, transparency, and prioritization of customer privacy.
We deeply value our Ancestry community and remain fiercely committed to providing a protected environment for journeys of personal discovery.