If you have logged in to you Gedmatch account recently, have you noticed an icon of a police badge on the same line of your name under your DNA resources? What does the Police Badge icon mean on Gedmatch?
Here’s a hint: It’s all about controlling the access of law enforcement to the Gedmatch database.
In this post, I’ll discuss in detail:
- The meaning of the police badge icon
- Why you should make a decision about whether you consent to law enforcement matching to your DNA kit
- How to opt-in to matching by law enforcement to your DNA kit
This is an important issue, and has turned out to be quite divisive in the genetic genealogy community. While I generally support law enforcement matching, I am writing this post to provide (hopefully) objective information so that you can make a decision about whether you would like to allow your kit to be matched with law enforcement kits.
What does the police badge icon stand for on Gedmatch?
The police badge icon stands for whether your DNA kit has been opted-in for matching to law enforcement kits or not.
If the police badge has a red “X” through it, then your kit is NOT currently available for law enforcement matching.
If the police badge does not have an X through it, then your kit is currently available to match with law enforcement kits:
All of the DNA kits that were uploaded to Gedmatch before they enacted this policy in May, 2019, were automatically opted out of law enforcement matching. This means that if you would like your kit to be available in the database for law enforcement matching, you will have to make a few clicks to opt your kit in.
The section below includes information about exactly how to opt your previously uploaded Gedmatch kits in to law enforcement matching.
All new Gedmatch users who upload kits that are not currently in the database will be given the option on the upload page to opt-in to law enforcement matching.
You are not required to opt-in in order to use the database and tools on the Gedmatch site.
Should you opt-in to law enforcement matching on Gedmatch?
The discussion over the meaning of the police badge on Gedmatch naturally leads to the question of whether we should opt our kits in to law enforcement matching.
In order to make an informed decision, it’s good to know exactly what it means to opt-in to law enforcement matching on the Gedmatch site.
What it law enforcement matching on Gedmatch?
Law enforcement could use the Gedmatch database just like you might. They upload a kit (a file) containing the DNA information belonging to a suspect of murder, rape, or very violent assault OR Jane or John Does.
(Jane or John Does in this context are people who are unidentified victims of homicides)
They are required to identify their kit as a law enforcement kit during the upload process.
Once their kit is uploaded to the database and has finished processing, they will be able to use the One-to-Many tool to find kits within the database that match the kit that they uploaded.
Most of the kits that match the uploaded kit will be relatively distant matches, and so they will use genetic genealogy techniques to learn more about the person whose kit they have uploaded.
To summarize this section, law enforcement would only upload the DNA information belonging to someone that they are trying to identify. By assisting law enforcement in this non-intrusive way, we are helping to remove violent criminals from the streets and helping families get justice for their loved ones.
How does law enforcement use matching on Gedmatch?
Simplified explanation ahead!
Once a professional genetic genealogist skilled with assisting law enforcement has a list of DNA matches, they will use techniques that we are familiar with in order to identify the person to whom their DNA kit belongs.
They will identify groups of DNA matches that share DNA with each other to find common ancestors, and build their family trees to find where the trees of the different groups intersect. This can be exceedingly difficult and takes a lot of work.
Once they find the intersection of the different family trees, which could be several generations back, they will identify all of the descendants of the intersecting couple. If the genetic genealogist has done good work (and if they have a lot of DNA matches to use), the list of possible identities could be as short as a group of siblings.
The list of descendants won’t be a new list of suspects – to the contrary!
Law enforcement can now eliminate people from the list of descendants based on things that they already know about the suspect, or in the case of a Jane Doe, the unidentified victim. The things they might already know could be gender, age, geographic location, physical descriptions, occupation, etc.
In fact, there may already be a list of possible suspects or identities, and the law enforcement staff can compare the information that the genetic genealogist has compiled to the list of possible suspects to find where they match.
All of the distant cousins who provided information in the form of small DNA segments can rest easy. If all goes well, the violent criminal is brought to justice and closure is given to the families of the victims.
Can law enforcement access your DNA on Gedmatch?
No. Your DNA is not stored on Gedmatch.
The information contained within your DNA file that you uploaded to Gedmatch does not have your complete genome detailed. DNA testing companies only test a fraction of the SNPs that we have in our chromosomes, and so the files we upload are not complete versions of our DNA.
Law enforcement is only interested in finding out whether you share DNA segments with the person whose kit they uploaded, and who your common ancestor might be. The common ancestor might be your 6th great-grandfather.
It is also important to note that you are not the only person descended from your 6th great-grandfather that inherited a DNA segment that might match the distant cousin criminal. You might have dozens of cousins who might match on this same segment.
Basically, segments all of our DNA also shows up in hundreds (or thousands) of other people.
How to opt-in to law enforcement matching on Gedmatch
If, after reading this post, you would like to opt-in to law enforcement matching on Gedmatch , you only have to make a few clicks with your mouse.
And thank you! My person belief is that this is a good service to society.
From your main Gedmatch dashboard, you just need to click on the police badge that has a red X on it. A new page with a message will pop up, and just press OK to get taken back to your dashboard.
If you would like to opt-out, the process is the same. Just click on the police badge that does not have an X on it, and click “OK” on the message that pops up.
I hope that this post helped you understand the meaning of the police badge, as well as the issues surrounding its use.
If you have any questions about something that you read in this post, or if you would like to share your politely expressed opinion on the topic, I would love to hear from you in the discussion below.
Thanks for being here today 🙂