NY Times: Why a Data Breach at a Genealogy Site Has Privacy Experts Worried by Heather Murphy (“Nearly two-thirds of GEDmatch’s users opt out of helping law enforcement. For a brief window this month, that didn’t matter.”):
The peculiar matches began early on a Sunday morning. Across the world, genealogists found that they had numerous new relatives on GEDmatch, a website known for its role in helping crack the Golden State Killer case.
New relatives are typically cause for celebration among genealogists. But upon close inspection, experienced users noticed that some of the new relatives seemed to be the DNA equivalent of a Twitter bot or a Match.com scammer; the DNA did things that actual people’s DNA should not be able to do.
Others seemed to be suspected murderers and rapists, uploaded by genealogists working with law enforcement. Users knew that the police sometimes used the site to try to identify DNA found at crime scenes. But users found the new profiles strange because they also knew that profiles made for law enforcement purposes were supposed to be hidden to prevent tipping off or upsetting a suspect’s relatives amid an investigation. What really drew attention, however, was the fact that all one million or so users who had opted not to help law enforcement had been forced to opt in.