Forensic DNA and Genealogy

Law Enforcement use of commercial DNA testing by John Carpenter

John Carpenter wrote this email to the ISOGG Yahoo group this weekend, and I am re-posting it with his kind permission. I have heard much from many people about Genetic Genealogy, Law Enforcement Co-operation, and changing the rules in the past few months.

Much of it though has come from relative newcomers to the industry.

I have been involved for over twelve years. John has been an admin even longer. His words are consistent with what my understanding has always been.


I would like to make it very clear that law enforcement has had no legal requirement of knock and notice when submitting a DNA tests to ANY DNA testing company in the past. They have not been required to put their department name and announce that detective so-in-so is the owner of a DNA kit. They bought a DNA kit just like you did.

We have no idea the number of DNA kits submitted by whom, when and to which DNA company by law enforcement. I am only aware of one personally that went to FTDNA about 15 years ago via a FBI investigation. AND no, FTDNA was not told the kit was for law enforcement use. AND no, Bennett Greenspan was not advised or consulted.

Again THERE WAS NO LEGAL REQUIREMENT FOR SUCH. I have been told by other law enforcement officers that this practice became fairly common in certain cases. Especially for cold cases.

This means that most of you were TOTALLY OBLIVIOUS and not upset then, even though this same topic was posted years ago on ISOGG. Again, on this ISOGG forum it has been mentioned at SEVERAL TIMES in the past. How do I know? Because I posted them. Again, not many cared or were upset then.

Now that FTDNA has formally announced compliance WITH THE LAW of the USA (and with the GDPR last May) and a willingness to help or should I say direct law enforcement to properly use the system without violating the privacy of its members … NOW people are complaining?

How many of you failed to read the May 2018 change in terms at FTDNA? It mentioned law enforcement. Go back and read it. Not much has changed except that people are upset by their ignorance or failure to understand?

In the past, every time I taught a class about DNA testing, I told people that sharing data could cause some unexpected revelation. Are we really that shocked that we have shared our data with tens of thousands of other people including the occasional law enforcement kit that is no different from all the others?

Please think about it.

John R. Carpenter
La Mesa, CA USA
Carpenter Cousins Project – Our main support page!

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