Police use of DNA leads to backlash, changes to big database

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A popular online genetics database used to find unknown relatives has tightened its policies for police access over privacy concerns.

Florida-based GEDmatch announced recently that police can now only view DNA profiles of users who have specifically given permission. GEDmatch’s previous policy said police could use its database without users’ consent to solve homicides and rapes. But the site’s owners were criticized when they allowed a police department to search for a non-lethal, non-sexual assailant.

More than 1 million people have uploaded their DNA profile on GEDmatch. Computers compare profiles, often identifying long-lost relatives.

Police upload DNA in hopes of finding an unknown perpetrator’s relatives. They then examine the relatives’ family tree to identify suspects. The technique has helped solve many cases nationwide.

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