Privacy Warning: Detective Permitted to Override Privacy Settings of 1.2 Million Users of DNA Site

Last week, a Florida detective made a startling public announcement: a judge had ruled he could permit him to have access to the privacy settings of the 1.2 million users of GEDmatch, a personal genomics database and genealogy website that was used by police to identify a suspect in the Golden State Killer case in California in 2018.

Detective Michael Fields of the Orlando Police Department, determined to solve a decades-old case of a serial rapist, appealed to Judge Patricia Strowbridge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida to approve a warrant permitting him to override the privacy settings of GEDmatch’s users, according to The New York Times. Once Patricia Strowbridge consented, GEDmatch let Fields have access less than 24 hours later, according to Fields.

20 million people have uploaded their genetic profiles to consumer DNA sites, but the two major sites,, which has 15 million users, and 23andMe, which boasts 10 million, have stated they will respect their customers’ privacy. The Times added, “GEDmatch, severely restricted police access to its records this year.”

After the judge’s decision had been rendered, NYU law professor Erin Murphy warned, “That’s a huge game-changer. The company made a decision to keep law enforcement out, and that’s been overridden by a court. It’s a signal that no genetic information can be safe.” She added, “I have no question in my mind that if the public isn’t outraged by this, they will go to the mother lode: the 15-million-person Ancestry database. Why play in the peanuts when you can go to the big show?”

Yaniv Erlich, the chief science officer at MyHeritage, a genealogy database, echoed, “They won’t stop here.” (Read more from “Privacy Warning: Detective Permitted to Override Privacy Settings of 1.2 Million Users of DNA Site” HERE)

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