23andMe Says it Has Turned Down Government's Requests to Review DNA Evidence - NBC Bay Area
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23andMe Says it Has Turned Down Government's Requests to Review DNA Evidence

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    The feds may not be after the Apple iPhone anymore, but they are still asking tech companies for evidence. And that evidence might include your DNA. Scott Budman reports. (Published Tuesday, March 29, 2016)

    The feds may not be after the Apple iPhone anymore, but they are still asking tech companies for evidence. And that evidence might include your DNA.

    The FBI has asked Bay Area genetic testing company 23andMe to look at DNA tests people have sent in. And, like Apple, 23andMe said it has turned the government down.

    When we give the tech company a DNA sample, it can tell us where we come from and who our relatives might be. But the company admits law enforcement agencies have also shown interest in what the Palo Alto company has collected.

    But Kate Black, 23andMe's privacy officer, insists the company has turned down the handful of requests its gotten since its inception. The company said it understands how powerful and personal DNA can be.

    "It is, right now, the most powerful forensic scientific evidence we can get," said Linda Starr with the Northern California Innocence Project.

    The Northern California Innocence Project works with DNA evidence and said 23andMe has a responsibility to let its customers know their private data is safe.

    "It certainly seems to me that anybody who provides their DNA to a company like 23andMe does not anticipate they're sharing it with the government," Starr said.

    One of 23andMe's arguments is that it cannot be sure that the person who sends in the DNA sample is the same person identified on the label. So the potential "evidence" is not accurate as a DNA sample taken directly from a person in a lab or at a crime scene.

    "The information is always stored in a de-identified status, it's encrypted," Black said. "We also let the customer know information never leaves 23andMe.

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