CINCINNATI -- Services like ancestry.com and 23andme are increasingly popular among Americans. According to ABC News, genealogy is now the second most popular hobby among Americans (second to gardening).
News stories out of Miami and New Orleans and Idaho City now chronicle the tale of a genealogical quest that ended in a criminal investigation. In these cases, law enforcement sought DNA samples collected by Ancestry.com and 23andme to compare to DNA evidence at a crime scene.
So, if you took advantage of these sites' Cyber Monday deals, could you DNA soon be accessible for police? No, according to Cincinnati police.
"That sounds kind of fictional, actually," said Sgt. Eric Franz. "We don't operate that way. Law enforcement, in the United States, takes (its) own samples."
Franz said police departments need to follow a chain of custody to obtain evidence, so getting DNA through a website or outside corporation is not an option.
"When we take DNA for court, the officers there fill out all the paperwork and submit it with...a sworn affidavit that said (the DNA) belongs to that person," Franz said. "Their signature goes on the bottom, verifying that the DNA came from that person."
Ancestry.com's 2016 transparency report said it received nine "valid requests" from law enforcement last year. These cases were all related to misuse of credit cards and identity theft.
Ancestry also updated its terms and conditions to highlight "you own your DNA" and clearly state that "we will not share your genetic data with employers, insurance providers or third party marketers without first getting your consent."