Genetic Privacy

by TChris

If you haven't been convicted of a crime, should the government have the right to take your DNA?

Three states -- Virginia, Louisiana and Texas -- already require the collection of DNA samples from arrestees as part of the booking process, even before suspects go on trial. Critics see a worrying erosion of due process and what they call "DNA privacy" -- the right of citizens to keep genetic information private.

California may join that list if Prop. 69 passes in November.

If approved, DNA collection would go into effect immediately for suspects arrested for murder or rape. They would have their DNA sampled by mouth swabs as part of the booking process. Beginning in 2009, samples would be taken from individuals arrested for a felony crime in California.

DNA profiles of convicted felons are entered into an FBI database, but the Bush administration wants to expand the law "so that the DNA of some arrestees, including juveniles, can also be made available through the database." So much for the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy.

One major fear is law enforcement will begin using genetic evidence to create a 21st century version of racial profiling. Already, police in Charlottesville, Va., had to face accusations that they were casting a "DNA dragnet," aggressively collecting saliva samples from African Americans in a serial rape case.

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