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FTDNA allows Law Enforcement to submit kits in change to TOS

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  • FTDNA allows Law Enforcement to submit kits in change to TOS

    FTDNA had a press release yesterday. There are many articles on the web about this change to FTDNA's Terms of Service, which I will not list here, but it is a potential game-changer for many customers. The change seems to have gone into effect on about December 18th, 2018.

    The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, has made a blog post concerning this issue, in which she comments about the changed part of FTDNA's Terms of Service,
    "the terms of use allow law enforcement to use the FTDNA database to try to find matches for any":
    “DNA Sample submitted or Genetic Information supplied (that) was obtained and authorized by law enforcement to either: (1) identify a perpetrator of a violent crime, as defined in 18 U.S. Code § (924)(e)(2)(B), against another individual, including sexual assault, rape, and homicide; or (2) identify the remains of a deceased individual.”4
    FTDNA's current Terms of Service has said in the past, and also continues to say, in item #16,
    Changes to the Terms of Service


    FamilyTreeDNA reserves the right to make changes to these TOS and may do so from time to time. When changes are made, we will make a new copy of these TOS available on our website. New additional terms will be made accessible to you from within the affected Services.

    We will notify you via email of any changes or additions to these TOS. You acknowledge and agree that your use of the Services after the date on which these TOS have changed will be treated as your acceptance of the updated TOS.
    I have made bold, and in red, the statement saying that FTDNA will notify us of changes. Has anyone received an email that informed them of this change? (I think not) Do others think they should have? And what about before informing customers about the change, if the company insisted on doing it, couldn't FTDNA have designed a way for users to opt out of having their kit(s) matched to kits that law enforcement uploads to FTDNA?
    Last edited by KATM; 1st February 2019, 05:09 PM.

  • #2
    Try and explain this one to potential recruitment of DNA testers. Talk about being untrustworthy.

    Clearly undermining its own paying customers showing total disregard, disrespect.

    By all accounts, this info first came about from Buzzfeed. Not via ftDNA to us, the paying customer, but via a newsfeed.

    ftDNA has also been removed from 'The Future of Privacy Forum' which previously listed them. "The Best Practices establish standards for genetic data generated in the consumer context by making recommendations for companies’

    Comment


    • #3
      Having read the news release I feel some of the above information is misleading.

      If law enforcement can use my DNA to catch criminals they are welcome to it. We already knew GEDcom was doing this and I uploaded my data there a long time ago, and it is still there.
      Last edited by Jim Barrett; 2nd February 2019, 07:24 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Do you have any matches where the match name is initials only, TBD, Unknown or some other meaningless name? I do! Could these have been submitted by law enforcement where no one, including FTDNA, didn't know the true source. Of course they could have been.

        So what has changed? FTDNA has told us that they will work with law enforcement, maybe making it easier for the sample to be submitted.

        I do think FTDNA should have sent an email to their customer database when the information was released to the news.

        Comment


        • #5
          One paragraph in the Press Release (underlining from the Press Release): "In order to, at their request, assist law enforcement, the Gene-by-Gene laboratory will generate SNP data profiles from samples submitted by law enforcement, which can then be uploaded to all public DNA databases, one of which belongs to FamilyTreeDNA, by law enforcement officials in their effort to build the suspect's or deceased individual's family tree. In the case of FamilyTreeDNA, without a valid court order, law enforcement will only be able to see information that is available to the standard FamilyTreeDNA user."

          My thought -- let them get a little practice doing it -- and then hopefully all the rest of us can also use that service to create FamilyFinder results from "samples" from our deceased relatives, not just cheek swabs.

          Comment


          • #6
            Does anyone have a handle on just when the TOS changed? The previous version was dated December 18, 2018. The current version is not date-stamped, so we'd need input from people who saved a copy of the TOS after December 18.

            Comment


            • #7
              FTDNA has seriously undermined the trust of the customers by ignoring their own Terms of Service and not notifiying us of this major change. I've never had a problem with my DNA being used to solve violent crime but I do expect to be told if this is now a possibility.

              Comment


              • #8
                webarchive.org (the "Wayback Machine" site) saved three captures of the TOS from 2018:
                May 24, 2018
                May 25, 2018
                July 27, 2018.

                All three versions above show the law enforcement statement as:
                You agree to not use the Services for any law enforcement purposes, forensic examinations, criminal investigations, and/or similar purposes without the required legal documentation and written permission from FamilyTreeDNA;
                The final capture of the page is from Feb. 1, 2019, and still shows the statement above. Along with the changed statement for law enforcement in "Your Use of the Services" section (6.B.xiii), some other language seems to have changed in the current version of the TOS. So it would seem that the change was made since Feb. 1, 2019.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Email from FTDNA

                  "Dear Customers:

                  I am writing to address the news that our Gene-by-Gene laboratory, which processes genetic tests for several commercial clients in addition to all of the FamilyTreeDNA tests, has processed a handful of DNA samples for cold cases from the F.B.I. In many cases, the news reports contained false or misleading information.

                  Let me start with this categorical statement:

                  LAW ENFORCEMENT DOES NOT HAVE OPEN ACCESS TO THE FTDNA DATABASE.

                  They cannot search or “dig through” FTDNA profiles any more than an ordinary user can. As with all other genetic genealogy services, law enforcement must provide valid legal process, such as a subpoena or search warrant to receive any information beyond that which any other user can access.

                  I have been an avid genealogist since I was twelve years old. FamilyTreeDNA is not just a business, it is my passion. I fully understand your privacy concerns on a personal level.

                  Law enforcement has the ability to test DNA samples from crime scenes and upload the results into databases, like any other customer can, and it appears they have been doing it at other companies for the past year. The distinction is that, according to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, we expect the FBI and law enforcement agencies to let us know when they submit something to our database. We moved to something transparent, rather than having them work in a stealthy way. Other than that, nothing changed that affects the privacy of our customers.

                  FamilyTreeDNA has always taken your privacy seriously and will continue to do so. We’ve remained steadfast, always, refusing to sell your data to pharmaceutical companies and other third parties.

                  One of the key reasons law enforcement wanted to submit their samples to us is the same reason many of you have: out of all the major companies, FamilyTreeDNA is the only one that has its own lab, and our customers’ samples never leave our company.

                  As previously stated, law enforcement can only receive information beyond that which is accessible to the standard user by providing FamilyTreeDNA with valid legal process, such as a subpoena or a search warrant. Again, this is specified in FamilyTreeDNA’s Terms of Service, just as with all other companies.

                  ABOUT OUR TERMS OF SERVICE

                  The Terms of Service were changed in May of 2018 to reflect GDPR requirements, and we informed our customers about the update at that time. Those changes included a paragraph that required law enforcement to receive our permission to enter the database and since it was a part of the overall update, notice was sent to every FTDNA customer. Without infringing upon our customers’ privacy, the language in the paragraph referring to law enforcement was updated in December, although nothing changed in the actual handling of such requests. It was an oversight that notice of the revision was not sent to you and that is our mistake. Therefore, we are reverting our TOS to our May 2018 version, and any future changes will be communicated to you in a timely manner.

                  This is the May 2018, GDPR-compliant version, communicated to you at that time: “You agree to not use the Services for any law enforcement purposes, forensic examinations, criminal investigations, and/or similar purposes without the required legal documentation and written permission from FamilyTreeDNA.”

                  WE WILL DO A BETTER JOB OF COMMUNICATING WITH YOU.

                  I am genuinely sorry for not having handled our communications with you as we should have.

                  We’ve received an incredible amount of support from those of you who believe this is an opportunity for honest, law-abiding citizens to help catch bad guys and bring closure to devastated families. We want you to understand, as many of you already do, that you have the same protections that you’ve always had and that you have nothing to fear.

                  We’ve also heard from supporters offering ideas and solutions to make the FamilyTreeDNA experience a more comfortable one in light of this new information.

                  We are listening. Our plan is to create a panel of citizen genealogist advisors who will work with us as we focus on how to make your FamilyTreeDNA experience the best one available.

                  Sincerely,

                  Bennett Greenspan
                  President
                  FamilyTreeDNA.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by prairielad View Post
                    Email from FTDNA

                    "Dear Customers:

                    I am writing to address the news that our Gene-by-Gene laboratory, which processes genetic tests for several commercial clients in addition to all of the FamilyTreeDNA tests, has processed a handful of DNA samples for cold cases from the F.B.I. In many cases, the news reports contained false or misleading information.
                    <snip>
                    Thanks, prairielad. You've beaten me to it

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I also received the email from Bennett Greenspan, and saw his statement, (my bolding)
                      The Terms of Service were changed in May of 2018 to reflect GDPR requirements, and we informed our customers about the update at that time. Those changes included a paragraph that required law enforcement to receive our permission to enter the database and since it was a part of the overall update, notice was sent to every FTDNA customer.
                      If by "those changes" he means something other than the quote below (from the May 2018 TOS), I can't find such a paragraph in the May or July versions of the TOS as captured by webarchive.org, or anything close to it. I would think that the webarchive.org captured versions of pages are accurate, but perhaps they are not.

                      So, I wonder to what he is referring? The statement I quote below is in the May 2018 TOS, and that may be what he means. Law enforcement is mentioned in part 6.B.xiii, and in the first paragraph of 6.C, but not as Mr. Greenspan implies (which I interpret as that LE can submit kits to share matches, and thus "enter the database").

                      There is a link in the TOS to the "FamilyTreeDNA Law Enforcement Guide," which again, in both the May version and the current version of that page, makes no mention that I can see regarding law enforcement in relation to topics of uploading, kits, or entering any databases.

                      If FTDNA has gone back to the May 2018 TOS, with the wording (per Bennett Greenspan's email today, shown above in this thread)
                      You agree to not use the Services for any law enforcement purposes, forensic examinations, criminal investigations, and/or similar purposes without the required legal documentation and written permission from FamilyTreeDNA.
                      then it seems to me that if law enforcement continues to "enter the database" (i.e., submit kits to get matches) without getting the unspecified "legal documentation" (warrant? subpoena?), then law enforcement is AGAIN violating the terms of service, as they did before FTDNA became aware that they were doing it. And law enforcement is probably violating the TOS of other companies where they may well have submitted DNA.

                      I also need to correct the last sentence in my last post: webarchive.com does not necessarily capture every version of a page, and since it did not capture the FTDNA TOS after July 27, 2018 to before Feb 1, 2019, the change could have occurred at any time in between those dates. The change does not appear in the Dec. 2018 version, linked in source #2 in Judy Russell's post "Opening the DNA Floodgates." (dated by its URL as 12182018), but the change does appear in the Feb. 1, 2019 version as captured by webarchive.com. So I suppose we can narrow down the revised statement to between Dec. 2018 through Feb. 1, 2019.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dinaj View Post
                        FTDNA has seriously undermined the trust of the customers by ignoring their own Terms of Service and not notifiying us of this major change. I've never had a problem with my DNA being used to solve violent crime but I do expect to be told if this is now a possibility.
                        Not mine. I don't see where they did anything wrong. The good guys and the bad guys can order a DNA kit from any of the companies.

                        Have you ever placed an order for anything? Have you every registered for an event? Did you have a guarantee they wouldn't sell you contact information. I just received the following offer sent to one of my RootsWeb email list.

                        "I am writing to check if you Would you be interested in purchasing the XXXXXXXX Expo 2019 Attendees List?

                        This is an opportunity to acquire list of 30,000 attendees contact details for a robust marketing campaign which will eventually help you convert the compiled leads in to phenomenal sales deal.

                        You will receive the file for permanent usage where you can use this list for multiple campaigns and cold calling. Please find below mentioned data fields for your review.

                        Attendee’s Job Function: Sales and Marketing, C-Level Executives, Operations Management, Logistics, Project Management and many more with Name, Company URL, Contact Name, Title, Phone number, Fax Number, Email Address, Company Address, Industry type etc.."

                        I sure am glad I'm not attending.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think you're missing the point here. The company change their TOS so fundamentally without telling their users. They've contravened GDPR. I know this issue has already been reported to the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland. That alone could have serious ramifications.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dinaj View Post
                            I think you're missing the point here. The company change their TOS so fundamentally without telling their users. .

                            1] According to quote above, the changed TOS had:
                            "the terms of use allow law enforcement to use the FTDNA database to try to find matches for any":
                            “DNA Sample submitted or Genetic Information supplied (that) was obtained and authorized by law enforcement to either: (1) identify a perpetrator of a violent crime, as defined in 18 U.S. Code § (924)(e)(2)(B), against another individual, including sexual assault, rape, and homicide; or (2) identify the remains of a deceased individual.”4
                            -- -- -- This is NOT A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE TO THE TOS -- it is, as Bennett explained - a clarification of the Previous (and now reverted) TOS - which said/now again says:
                            You agree to not use the Services for any law enforcement purposes, forensic examinations, criminal investigations, and/or similar purposes without the required legal documentation and written permission from FamilyTreeDNA.
                            -- -- -- the fact that reading the new version upset folks suggests that they truly did not realize what the old (May 2018) version was truly saying - until it was clarified in the re-statement

                            2] On the other hand - if they make ANY CHANGE in the TOS, they were supposed to notify us - even if it was just to correct a typo, such as 'hte' to "the" -- so yes, FTDNA did wrong -

                            3] Gene-by-Gene may be related to FTDNA - but is not the same Company/Corporate entity, and their analyzing of the sample and then Providing "Raw Data" which can be uploaded to FTDNA - that IS NOT FTDNA analyzing the Sample -- FTDNA is only accepting the Raw Data Gene-by-Gene has created, the same as they accept the Raw Data from MyHeritage, or earlier versions of 23andMe, etc.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Dinaj View Post
                              I think you're missing the point here. The company change their TOS so fundamentally without telling their users. They've contravened GDPR. I know this issue has already been reported to the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland. That alone could have serious ramifications.
                              I think you are over reacting. Too many people believe the trash reported by the "made up news" media!

                              Comment

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