Tuesday 17 December 2019

An update on EU kits at GEDmatch and a message from Curtis Rogers

We learnt last week that GEDmatch has been acquired by the forensics company Verogen. I now have some further information about the handling of European Union users at GEDmatch. When the sale first went through only a small number of EU users were presented with a consent form in order to access the website. We thought at the time that the form was only being shown to those who had an identifiable e-mail address in the EU. I did not have to re-consent when I first tried to log onto GEDmatch, presumably because my e-mail address had a .com suffix and not a .co.uk suffix. That all changed some time last week, and Verogen are now identifying EU users by their IP address. As a result I found that I had to re-consent to use the site. Below are screenshots of the data transfer form which all EU users are now required to sign.

Having signed the form you are then presented with this screen.

You are then given the option to decide on a kit by basis which kits you would like to transfer to Verogen, which kits you would like to delete and which kits you would like to decide about later.

Many people have been reporting that they've lost a lot of matches at GEDmatch and that some of their kits have disappeared. Genetic genealogist Paul Watkins contacted Verogen and he has given me permission to share the contents of the reply he received which explains what has been happening:
While we did have issues with Kits “disappearing” this week from UK users, the main reason that matches are looking like they disappear is that people who are subject to European General Data Privacy Regulations (GDPR) have been pulled out of the database temporarily, as we are legally required to obtain consent to transfer control of users data to Verogen.

Unfortunately, in addition, to known EU users, there are also many users that we do not know their location (we use the IP address of the user when they login to determine the country of origin). This group contains a mix of users from different countries (EU, US, and ex-US users). However, because there is most certainly EU users in this unknown location group, the legal ramification of violating European GDPR is severe, and this has forced us to pull these people out of the database until they log in and consent. 
Users from the EU and those with an unknown location are logging back in, and we expect that these matches will repopulate over time. We are also reaching out proactively to these users to ask them to log in to confirm their location and accept the new terms of service.
The issue of disappearing kits appears to have been resolved and the following notice now appears when you log into GEDmatch.
Meanwhile it has been reported in the official GEDmatch Facebook group that Curtis Rogers will be sending out an e-mail to all GEDmatch users. I've copied the text of the e-mail below for reference:
To GEDmatch users, 
As you may know, on December 9 we shared the news that GEDmatch has been purchased by Verogen, Inc., a forensic genomics company whose focus is human ID. This sale took place only because I know it is a big step forward for GEDmatch, its users, and the genetic genealogical community. Since the announcement, there has been speculation about a number of things, much of it unfounded. 
There has been concern that law enforcement will have greater access to GEDmatch user information. The opposite is true. Verogen has firmly and repeatedly stated that it will fight all unauthorized law enforcement use and any warrants that may be issued. This is a stronger position than GEDmatch was previously able to implement. 
There has been concern that Verogen will eliminate GEDmatch free tools and raise Tier 1 rates. In fact, Verogen has made it clear that the free tools will remain, and there are no immediate plans to raise Tier 1 rates. 
It has been reported on social media that there is a mass exodus of kits from the GEDmatch database. There has been a temporary drop in the database size only because privacy policies in place in the various countries where our users reside require citizens to specifically approve the transfer of their data to Verogen. As users grant permission, that data will again be visible on the site. We are proactively reaching out to these users to encourage them to consent to the transfer. 
The sale to Verogen will be a tremendous benefit to genealogists. Verogen has pledged to continue the GEDmatch philosophy of providing free services. It recognizes that all information belongs to the users who have placed it on GEDmatch, that this information may be removed by the users at any time, and that strong privacy protections need to be in place. It is to Verogen’s advantage to build the consumer database, meaning more and better matches for users. Verogen recognizes that law enforcement use of genetic genealogy is here to stay and is in a better position to prevent abuses and protect privacy than GEDmatch ever could have done on its own. 
Bottom line: I am thrilled that the ideal company has purchased GEDmatch. The baby I created will now mature for the benefit of all involved. If anyone has any doubts, I may be reached at [email address redacted]. I will do my best to personally respond to all concerns. 
Curtis Rogers
It will take time for GEDmatch to settle back down after the sale but I would urge everyone to give the new owners the benefit of the doubt and to see how it all works out in the months to come.

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