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The Ancestry.com site. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Ancestry.com refused to comply with a search warrant pushed by a Pennsylvania court for police to gain access to its database of about 16 million DNA profiles, the company confirmed to Axios via email Monday night.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Kim Hart, firms that trace customers' ancestry have amassed huge DNA databases. Some have agreed to share access with law enforcement. The privacy questions this raises could become a "Supreme Court issue," retired investigator Paul Holes, who led the 2018 Golden State Killer case that used genetic data to identify the suspect, earlier told BuzzFeed, which first reported Ancestry's stand.

  • Ancestry hasn't received any follow-up from law enforcement on the Pennsylvania matter, but protecting customers' privacy is the firm's "highest priority," the company said in a statement issued to news outlets including Axios.
  • When asked by Axios if Ancestry would fight such a case if it were to end up in the Supreme Court, the spokeswoman said, "[W]e will also always advocate for our customers’ privacy and seek to narrow the scope of any compelled disclosure, or even eliminate it entirely."

Details: The search warrant seeking access to Ancestry’s DNA database was documented in its 2019 transparency report released last week.

  • "The warrant was improperly served on Ancestry and we did not provide any access or customer data in response," the firm said in its statement.
"Not only will we not share customer information with law enforcement unless compelled to by valid legal process, such as a court order or search warrant, we will also always advocate for our customers' privacy and seek to narrow the scope of any compelled disclosure, or even eliminate it entirely."
— Ancestry statement

The big picture: Genetic testing companies that have been amenable to police search requests include the Verogen-owned GEDmatch "and the database run by FamilyTreeDNA," BuzzFeed notes.

  • FamilyTreeDNA apologized for not disclosing this agreement to consumers, the New York Times reported in February last year. Ancestry's rival 23andMe told BuzzFeed it "received no warrants to search its database as of the end of 2019."

Of note: Drug makers and app developers have also sought access to genetic testing companies' DNA database information.

  • Both Ancestry and 23andMe — the largest companies that, combined, have DNA data of 15 million users — both share anonymized genetic data with outside researchers and companies with customers' "informed consent."

Go deeper: Genetic testing firms share your DNA data more than you think

Go deeper

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.