DNA and Privacy

DNA is one of the best ways to identify a person, considering that each person’s DNA is completely unique to them. There is a DNA data bank, CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), run by the FBI. It has four indexes, all for different purposes. They are Convicted Offender Index, Forensic Index, Unidentified Human Remains Index, and the Relatives of Missing Persons Index.

Some people worry about law enforcement and their personal privacy and rights when it comes to DNA collection. There is special concern about the relatives of missing persons because the people in that section are subjected to “lifelong genetic surveillance” even though they did nothing wrong. This can be one of the reasons a person refused to give a sample of their DNA. Some consider it to be invasive and do not want their personal information in a nation-wide database and can be matched to someone at any time.

Sometimes DNA evidence sends the wrong person to jail and the truth doesn’t come out until years later or may never be revealed. This can be caused by mixing up samples, labeling mistakes, and misidentification of a sample. Samples can also be unknowingly contaminated. This is why the person handling and collecting the DNA must be extremely careful.

Law enforcement has to be careful not to cross any boundaries when they collect DNA. Personal privacy is very important to some and the decision to not consensually give a DNA sample must be respected.

Source: Krimsky, Sheldon, and Tania Simoncelli. Genetic Justice. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Print.


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