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On July 19, genealogy enthusiasts who use the website GEDmatch to upload their DNA information and find relatives to fill in their family trees got an unpleasant surprise. Suddenly, more than a million DNA profiles that had been hidden from cops using the site to find partial matches to crime scene DNA were available for police to search.

The news has undermined efforts by Verogen, the forensic genetics company that purchased GEDmatch last December, to convince users that it would protect their privacy while pursuing a business based on using genetic genealogy to help solve violent crimes.

A second alarm came on July 21, when MyHeritage, a genealogy website based in Israel, announced that some of its users had been subjected to a phishing attack to obtain their log-in details for the site — apparently targeting email addresses obtained in the attack on GEDmatch just two days before.

In a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News and posted on Facebook, Verogen explained that the sudden unmasking of GEDmatch profiles that were supposed to be hidden from law... see more