Wednesday, March 16, 2016

FamilyTreeDNA Asks GEDmatch.com to Freeze Uploads of User Data From Their Tests

One of the best, largely free, resources available to genetic genealogists are the tools on GEDmatch.com. This site allows users to upload raw data from all three major testing companies - Ancestry.com, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. This is the only way to compare tests from the three companies.

Today, users noticed a strange notice on GEDMatch:

NOTICE: We are no longer accepting FTDNA DNA kit uploads. We have been asked not to say why. Please Contact FTDNA if you have any questions.

Well, users noticed, and they did contact FTDNA. In droves. And droves.

This isn't surprising, as the statement was mysterious and yet direct in its instruction.

Genetic genealogy online groups, message lists, etc. blew up with speculation, some of it quite fanciful.

FTDNA responded on their Facebook Page with the following message:

We have reached out to GEDMatch expressing our concern that their website could potentially lead to a breach in privacy of our customers. Given this, we proposed to discuss the subject with them, but in parallel we suggested that until further clarification and assurances that the privacy of our customers' records are protected, Family Tree DNA uploads should be suspended. We hope that with the cooperation of GEDMatch we can reestablish the uploads in the near future.

Well, that didn't sit well with many users. Dozens of folk have used one of Facebook's emoji-like statuses to express anger.  Many users feel that they have the right to upload their DNA data files wherever they darned well please, and they are frustrated that FTDNA disagrees.

Other users have noted that from GEDmatch, one can determine the test ID number for the sample, which FTDNA surprisingly uses as a username. This gives basically the easiest half of the two pieces of information needed to log into an account.  Of course, most other websites use an e-mail address as a user name, which is not exactly rocket science to locate.

It appears likely that FTDNA is concerned about litigation. I cannot comment on that, since as a judge, I cannot publicly opine about potential cases or controversies.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.