Indecent Exposure: Genes are More than a Brand Name Label in the DNA Database Debate
31 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2014 Last revised: 28 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2013
Few can argue with the message that DNA saves lives, and that message is used time and again to justify the continued bloat of DNA databases. Saving lives and solving cases are the intended outcomes of the creation of DNA databases, but even with such laudable goals, there are unintended - yet predictable - consequences. This is not to say that DNA databases are not useful. Indeed, DNA database hits have been instrumental in linking criminals to prior unsolved crimes, bringing closure to many victims and families, and one would be hard pressed to argue with such success. The criminal justice system has told us that the privacy intrusion is just simply part of the “banquet of consequences” upon which the system feasts.
With the ambitious and nearly-unfettered expansion of DNA, it is perhaps not surprising that it raises privacy concerns, and, relatedly, Fourth Amendment concerns. This article looks at privacy on the molecular level, and, in particular, an issue that is all too often given short shrift in the DNA database debate: that the collection of DNA is about more than just putting genetic material into a barcode format. Courts time and again liken DNA profiles to fingerprints or license plates, but the information gleaned from a sample is so much more. As we continue the expansion of DNA collection in this country to include more offenders and arrestees and quite possible those outside of the criminal justice system, we should consider the broader implications of warehousing our genetic material.
Keywords: DNA databank, CODIS, DNA profiling, DNA database
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