Science Fiction and Shed DNA
7 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2006
Date Written: December 8, 2006
A recent article on Reclaiming Abandoned DNA maintains that it is time to curtail the warrantless collection of the traces of DNA that people unwittingly deposit. The problem is said to be acute in large part because "covert sampling" is "the means by which total population DNA data banking might be achieved . . . without general public awareness [or] discussion . . ." Other perceived dangers include "preventive detention" or other interventions for "would-be offenders" on the strength of possible "race-based genetic variation." Moreover, the article implies that the DNA variations now used to link individuals to biological samples from crime scenes or victims have been or will be "found to contain predictive medical information."
In response, this essay considers the extent to which unregulated collection of shed DNA poses real problems that might be solved by new constitutional or statutory protections. It provides more complete information on why the forensic markers used in law enforcement do not pose a meaningful risk to medical privacy. It briefly discusses the relationship between genes, behavior, and race, emphasizing the limited implications for "abandoned DNA."
Keywords: DNA evidence, Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, CODIS loci, medical privacy, DNA databases
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