Individuals could be taken to court based on the use of retail DNA test kits in the not-so-distant future. In fact, it might not even need to be the person in court who used a home DNA kit, as someone related to them is likely to be enough.

DNA kits sold over the counter by companies like Ancestry and 23andMe have come under increased scrutiny lately. For starters, the Pentagon warned military service members away from using these kits as they could be a threat to personal and operational security. In addition, questions have been raised over the handling of user data since it came to light 23andMe developed a drug based on customer information. Now, the suggestion law enforcement might soon have access to the same customer data is raising new concerns.

Originally reported by BuzzFeed, a recent Ancestry transparent report confirmed that during 2019 the company received nine “valid law enforcement requests” for customer information, with the company responding to six of those requests. More worryingly, the same report confirmed that Ancestry had received a search warrant request “seeking access to Ancestry’s DNA database.” Ancestry says it challenged the warrant and has yet to provide any customer data. However, it seems unlikely this will be the last time a request like this is made.

Home DNA Kits Are Law Enforcement’s New Tool

Law enforcement is not especially interested in getting hold of customer DNA test kit data to follow a specific line of inquiry. As is often the case with data, the wealth of information these companies have access to can be used to generate leads through what’s now referred to as investigative genetic genealogy. Essentially, with the help of specialized investigators, law enforcement agencies look for possible profile matches in DNA data sets and then build out a family tree in an attempt to make a positive ID. A prime example of this investigative approach in action was the recent arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo.

While investigative genetic genealogy is proving to be an effective tool, its success heavily relies on the size of the data set. This is why companies like Ancestry and 23andMe (with access to information on more than 23 million users between them) are proving so appealing to law enforcement, as obtaining data sets that large is likely to prove significantly beneficial in yielding real and actionable results. While both DNA test companies have previously said they are committed to maintaining customer privacy, the pressure on them to hand over customer information will continue to escalate. Although Ancestry was able to hold off on this occasion, it remains to be seen how much these companies can continue pushing back in the future. Especially if the number of DNA database search warrants become more frequent, and law enforcement decides to take refusals to comply to the next legal level.

More: Parents In China Try DNA Testing To Spot Future Einsteins, Mozarts

Source: BuzzFeed