FBI Expands DNA Collections: Raises Privacy Issues

April 19, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The next time you are arrested for such minor offenses as driving with an expired registration or public loitering, you may be required to provide a DNA sample that will stay in the national database forever. The fact that you are found innocent and not convicted doesn’t mean your DNA sample will be removed from the system. Even children arrested for the usual teen misdemeanors are being forced to submit DNA samples in many states.

As the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including 15 states, expands its DNA collection to people awaiting trial and detained immigrants, criminal justice experts say it infringes on our privacy and violates the Fourth Amendment.

The New York Times recently reported on the constitutional concerns of indiscriminately collecting DNA samples from people arrested for petty offenses. The American Civil Liberties Union says the government is overstepping its legal boundaries by too broadly applying its power to compel DNA collection.

What started as DNA collections from convicted criminals to provide a national database to help police solve crimes, has now mushroomed into wholesale collection, setting the stage for a future society when every citizen’s DNA could be stored in a national database.

The courts have not ruled on the constitutionality of compelling DNA samples from innocent people. Past court cases have deemed DNA collections from convicts and criminals on probation, legal.

The new increase in the FBI’s collection pool will add 80,000 new entries a year, swelling the database to 1.2 million samples by the year 2012. DNA processing backlogs that are already a law enforcement problem, delaying trials, will increase.

With the FBI expansion, many states may soon follow suit. The State of California recently started collecting DNA samples from every resident who is arrested, no matter how petty the crime.

Law enforcement officials say the increased DNA collections expand the suspect pool, helping police solve crimes and removing dangerous criminals from the streets, which saves lives. And of course, if you don’t commit a crime, your DNA sample will never become an issue, or will it?

Our government seems to be headed in the direction of increased surveillance. What once was protected as private information, is now readily accessible with the click of a mouse. The FBI’s expansion of DNA collection is seen by critics as just another step towards a Big Brother society.

As new technology advances ahead of constitutional safeguards, there will continue to be clashes between the government’s interest to keep us safe from dangerous criminals and our personal rights of privacy.

It looks like a court case challenging the legality of collecting of DNA samples from innocent people will be filed soon.


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