The Beginnings of a U.S. Government DNA Database

From the Washington Post:

Suspects arrested or detained by federal authorities could be forced to provide samples of their DNA that would be recorded in a central database under a provision of a Senate bill to expand government collection of personal data.

The controversial measure was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and is supported by the White House, but has not gone to the floor for a vote. It goes beyond current law, which allows federal authorities to collect and record samples of DNA only from those convicted of crimes. The data are stored in an FBI-maintained national registry that law enforcement officials use to aid investigations, by comparing DNA from criminals with evidence found at crime scenes.


The provision, co-sponsored by Kyl and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), does not require the government to automatically remove the DNA data of people who are never convicted. Instead, those arrested or detained would have to petition to have their information removed from the database after their cases were resolved.

Posted on September 27, 2005 at 11:31 AM53 Comments


Tom Grant September 27, 2005 12:10 PM

Why not just collect DNA from everyone at birth? No discrimination there. Why wait until someone is arrested?

Big Brother wants you. Or, at least, your ID.

Joseph September 27, 2005 12:28 PM

In a sad macabre way, I agree. If they are going to go as far as collecting DNA data on everyone that is arrested but not yet convicted, it would be less discrimination to simply collect it on everybody. They’ll have to pry my blood from my cold, dead hands, though. I guess that wouldn’t be too hard for them, but it is the thought that counts.

Clive Robinson September 27, 2005 12:29 PM

Appart from the fact that it is an invasion of privecy that is monumental in it’s ramifications, not just for law enforcment but health insurance etc.

It is also a bad idea for several other reasons (which have been mentioned on these pages before).

I can only see one advantage at the moment and that is, if they do start collecting DNA from every US citizen, hopefully they will make an anonymous version of the data available so that we can realy see if the experts are right to make the claims they do about DNA uniquness. Or if the “Blond Hair Blue eyes” hypothosess is correct.

Shura September 27, 2005 12:30 PM

I wonder how long it’ll take until they’ll take DNA samples from people coming into the country at airports etc.

They also take fingerprints and photograph you, so DNA samples would only be the next logical step, and there probably would be little resistance to it, too – after all, the only people affected are just foreigners, anyway.

Mithrandir September 27, 2005 12:40 PM

They’ve been collecting fingerprints for decades in exactly the same set of circumstances. DNA “fingerprinting” provides a better identifier, which should reduce false-positives.

So what is the big deal? Why is this worse than fingerprinting?

David September 27, 2005 1:02 PM

Reminds me of the Miami Herald article a while back discussing the capture of a rapist. Seems the Miami police department had a guys DNA from a previous (but different) case, but it took about 3 weeks? before someone even asked for it to be tested. In the meanwhile at least one more woman was raped.

Having the DNA still doesn’t mean it will get used correctly, or even compotently.

Davi Ottenheimer September 27, 2005 1:10 PM

Oh, I love this part of the story:

“The Kyl measure was added to a bill to strengthen penalties for violent acts against women and was approved without a roll”

Is it just me or do you suppose Kyl was weeping on microphone to the effect of:

“My fellow Americans, if you want to stop violence against women, you will vote for this simple and straightforward measure of prevention”, which just so conveniently happens to also include a tiny little DNA database provision (detective not preventative) with a completely different objective in mind.

Are we honestly supposed to believe that the only way to become more effective at recognizing “serial predators” is to take DNA indefinitely for any suspect detained for any crime? Anyone have a copy of the actual measure to review the wording?

If he were really focused on reducing violence against women, then one would think the measure would be focused as well.

As I said the other day, if all you have (or want) is a giant hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail…someone needs to get this man a screwdriver, quick!

Saxon September 27, 2005 1:15 PM

Keep in mind that the military already collects DNA from everyone that passes through its doors. Between that, and this new felon database, you’ve got a pretty substantial percentage of the population already on the rolls.

hibernatus September 27, 2005 1:30 PM

DNA database to “stop violence against women”? maybe the shoot-to-kill policy solve this better…

James Bly September 27, 2005 1:31 PM

Does big brother want our ID? Sure. And so do we. Every day we give ID information. Being anonymous is a privilege we all deserve by birthright, but it is never guaranteed at all times.

The real question is if our ID can be used against us. There’s nothing wrong with knowing who someone is, but there is something wrong with impersonating or infringing on their liberties by misusing their personal information.

RvnPhnx September 27, 2005 1:36 PM

Ok, now this doesn’t seem like such a bad idea at first–until you really start to look at the fourth amendment in the way that the Supreme Court has (justifiably) looked at it for the last 60 years. You see, to keep DNA from convicted federal felons has long been legal–to keep it from mere suspects is what I suspect has been changed. This is a real problem. If there is no standing case against somebody than there is no Fourth Amendment power to collect and keep evidence against them.
In addition to this problem, DNA is not foolproof. It can be contaminated and manipulated just like any other kind of material evidence. It can also be downright wrong–for instance the case of somebody whom received a marrow transplant their blood DNA and skin cell/other DNA may not match.

Kevin September 27, 2005 1:55 PM

And of course, any such petition will likely be met with “and why would an innocent person feel the need to have their DNA removed from the databank?” line of reasoning. Wonderful.

A universal DNA databank has some serious issues attached to it, mostly that of wrongful conviction and police/media harassment after being labelled a “person of interest” due to a DNA link found.

The usual tale of a wrongful conviction is that of tunnel vision on the part of investigators: namely, once they had a theory, the investigation became tailored to seeking out the guilt of that party, not to finding out who did it. With a universal DNA databank, I’m worried that the first thing upon finding a victim will be to try and match DNA, regardless of the relevance, in order to make a short suspect list.

In some cases (such as semen on a rape victim) this makes perfect sense. In others, it will be no more than grasping at straws trying to find a short list of names. This is where the tunnel vision begins (not to mention the immediate defense tactic of a defense lawyer using every name on the list as a “suspect”, no matter how flimsy) and where we can run into serious trouble on the other side of things. Either as suspect or defense smokescreen, a lot of people are going to be dragged through the mud for no reason other than a few of their skin cells ending up somewhere where a crime has been committed. If your DNA is present and you didn’t know the person, well, obviously your DNA had no reason to be there. If you knew the person, well, most people are killed by someone they know, right?

As it stands, unless the DNA is already in a databank, the investigation has to show probable cause in order to obtain a warrant for someone’s DNA, meaning that somewhere a ruling has to be made by (hopefully) someone who can judge the difference between police fitting the case to the evidence, rather than the evidence to the case.

I’m afraid that with a universal databank we’ll end up trying to reverse-engineer crimes to match a suspect, instead of matching a suspect to a crime. Alarmist, perhaps, but if the police need to find someone to appease the public you can bet it’s going to come from the DNA list if all else fails.

Savik September 27, 2005 2:48 PM

Well is this not very much like the programs that take the fingerprints of children to “help identify them in case of a kidnapping”?

I have never heard of a case where fingerprinting children has been used to help locate them. Perhaps they really are useful I just have not ever seen it.

I have never been fingerprinted, nor my children, at one of these finger print drives they usually hold at schools — but what is done with these fingerprints once they are taken? Given to the parents or put in some national DB?

Davi Ottenheimer September 27, 2005 3:31 PM

@ Chris

Thanks for the pointer. In a wonderfully ironic twist, when you try to access it you get an error message:

“Search results are only retained for a limited amount of time.”

Apparently someone thinks it is a good idea to delete or overwrite the search results…the Attorney General could take a lesson or two from the Thomas information architects.

Anyway, after a bit of fiddling, I found this excerpt:

“The Attorney General may, as prescribed by the Attorney General in regulation, collect DNA samples from individuals who are arrested or detained under the authority of the United States. The Attorney General may delegate this function within the Department of Justice as provided in section 510 of title 28, United States Code, and may also authorize and direct any other agency of the United States that arrests or detains individuals or supervises individuals facing charges to carry out any function and exercise any power of the Attorney General under this section.”

I do not see anything about the grounds to justify taking DNA, meaning anyone detained for any reason would be affected.

Without a rational link to the arguments given by Senator Kyl about protecting women from predators, the provision is far more broad in effect (pun not intended) than his representations indicate.

For example:

“If this bill had been law, and Arizona had taken advantage of it, police might already have identified and caught the Phoenix ‘A.M. Rapist’,”

Wow, I mean, who wouldn’t want to stop an “A.M. Rapist”, or even prevent one, but the real question is at what cost?

Did the Phoenix police force stop absolutely everything else and focus entirely on solving the case? No, of course not, no police force can do that because of the security trade-offs. Has the Senator really considered the trade-offs of an indiscriminate DNA database, or does he care?

Here are his press releases:

You may contact the Senator here:

although he says “I will only be able to respond to Arizona constituents [which will soon be clearly identified to me by their voting, drugs and criminal record, oops, I mean race…um, sorry, by their DNA]”

Leon September 27, 2005 3:33 PM

In the Netherlands a guy went to jail for four years after being convicted of murdering a young girl.

In his trial the police excluded the DNA samples that showed he was innocent from the evidence.

Four years later somebody else confessed the murder. His DNA samples matched.

So it’s not about the records that are in the database, it’s about who checks them against the register …

Roy Owens September 27, 2005 3:49 PM

Forensic DNA matching is not matching one person’s DNA to another, but is approximately matching a very tiny subset to a very tiny subset. (The approximation can be ‘helped’ along by the electrophoresis technician.) Advocates make claims of astronomical odds against error, but ask yourself the question, what is the minimum sample size necessary to validate any of those claims? The best we could do is test the six billion people alive today, but would never be done because of the prohibitive expense. Thus these claims will never be validated, not in our lifetimes, not ever.

Fingerprint matching advocates have made claims of near-infallibility, but have never validated their claims through testing, because the testing would be prohibitively expensive.

Keep in mind that ‘forensic science’ is paying people to use technology to convict people of crimes, not to find the truth. There is no audit trail on the DNA chain of evidence. When a positive match comes back from the testing facility, there is never proof there was an actual match or even that the work was actually done. (Check the Houston Chronicle for the last several months on this.)

The methodology of forensic DNA matching in use across the country leaves itself wide open to fraud, and thus falsifying evidence and testimony. To avoid taint, the DNA collected at the crime scene must be analyzed first and the results published before any DNA can be collected from suspects.

Having pre-collected DNA gives the police a database of suspects to pick through. Note that when the police find ‘a match’, then will never admit to multiple matches. They just pick the one they like best. If that one has an unbreakable alibi, it’s on to the next best.

A rogue operator is free to pick a suspect at random, collect some DNA-carrying material from the suspect’s home, and then plant it in the evidence that had been collected at the crime scene.

This trick is a take off on the old ruse of proving the suspect was in the victim’s home by going to the victim’s home, removing a piece of mail, and then ‘finding’ that letter in the suspect’s home. (Or, if all the evidence is already collected, then merely move a letter from the victim’s pile to the suspect’s pile. It takes just a second, but it will sell the jury.)

Not Surprised September 27, 2005 3:57 PM

Is anyone really shocked by this in this day and age? Our rights are being trampled on left and right in the name of “National Security”. What the government wants it gets. Whether they get it today, tomorrow, or thru some other means off the radar they’ll get it. Call me paranoid but look how things have changed in just the last 20 years, especially the last 5. The government won’t stop until they know everything possible about everyone at all times – after all that is what will keep us safe, right?

Mithrandir September 27, 2005 5:27 PM


I read the article. I still don’t understand how this is materially different from the existing fingerprint database.

It’s not as if they’re going to sequence your entire genetic code and store it. That would be prohibitively expensive. It’s just details from a few particularly individually-variable areas of your genome, most of which don’t actually code for anything (if they coded for something, they couldn’t be so individually unique).

Knowing what I do about genetics, I seriously doubt that they will even be able to tell your hair and eye color from the “DNA fingerprint” they store. What would be the point? That information is already in their database.

itripn September 27, 2005 7:23 PM


It’s different because DNA includes such things as genetically acquired diseases, race information, etc. This is information which could clearly lead to discriminatory treatment of a suspect, and is protected by any number of existing federal privacy laws related to medical information.

This is not information you can generally gather from a fingerprint.

Davi Ottenheimer September 27, 2005 7:52 PM

@ Not Surprised

Well, the way I read it, this case would actually be “rights are being trampled on left and right in the name of” identifying sexual predators.

Perhaps the Senators expect even less debate on that subject, but hopefully someone will still be able to beg the question of whether such a vague and potentially harmful law is the right remedy.

rdb September 27, 2005 9:53 PM

“A Guthrie spot is a sample of blood collected by a heel prick method soon after birth for enzyme analysis. All children born in Victoria since the late 1960s have had such a blood sample collected and stored on a paper-like card known as a Guthrie card. These cards are stored by hospitals for a number of years.”

Thomas Sprinkmeier September 27, 2005 11:50 PM


“I still don’t understand how this is materially different from the existing fingerprint database.”

I think the biggest difference is in the perception of the judge and jury.

DNA is seen as science, approximating magic.
The ‘facts’ of a case will be decided by which side can provide a more convincing expert witness.

The differance is that anyone who’s ever cleaned a window knows more about fingerprints than most people will ever know about DNA.

Wojo September 28, 2005 12:26 PM

@ itripn

“… DNA includes such things as genetically acquired diseases, race information … ”

I was not aware that the databases would store the entire DNA sequence of every individual. Wouldn’t that be incredibly costly and time-consuming given today’s methods for recording a person’s entire genetic makeup?

I figured they would just store a numerically representative slice of the DNA that would make it statistically very unlikely (i.e. almost impossible) that two different people who were not identical twins to have matching sequences. Such a subset would not be enough to profile or catalogue genetic diseases, but it would be enough to uniquely identify a person by one means other than fingerprints.

@ Roy Owens

Your post sounds a lot like conspiracy theory and paranoia. I’m not sure if you intended it that way, but … sheesh. There will always be people who use the tools incorrectly, but that doesn’t mean we should discard the tools.

Steffo September 28, 2005 1:24 PM

“Why not just collect DNA from everyone at birth?” – In response to the first post. A bit late but I live in Sweden. 🙂

In Sweden, almost every citizen, born 1975 or later, have provided a blood sample at birth. The sample is used to test for a genetic disease (PKU: Phenyle-Ketone-Uria). But it is also saved for future medical research in a database.

The database does not contain any DNA-profiles, but the blood samples can easily be analysed. There is also identity data provided with each sample.

The database is of course not intended for use in criminal investigation, it should only be used for research purposes. However, the temptation to use the database was to great for the police.

In the high profile case of the murder of Anna Lindh (the Swedish secretary of foreign affairs) the database was used to identify the murderer. It was not difficult for the police to obtain the sample, they just requested it from the physician in charge of the database. No questions asked.

This example illustrates the risks of storing this sort of information: broadening of what is considered acceptable use of the data. From research to criminal investigation.

What is the next step? Give the data to insurance companies or to employers? Slowly the public gets accustomed to the new uses of DNA-profiles and privacy and personal integrity erodes.

Not Surprised September 28, 2005 2:05 PM

@ Davi
Are you really naive enough to believe what they’re saying – that a database of everyone’s DNA is simply going to be used to identify criminals, e.g. sexual predators? I doubt it. However, I very much doubt that any of us will ever know what this kind of data will really be used for.

Davi Ottenheimer September 28, 2005 3:58 PM

@ Not Surprised

That’s what I was trying to say, although admittedly maybe not so well.

It seems to me that the Senator announced the provision as a solution for one particular problem, but the actual language of the provision is so vague that it could be used for anything against anyone.

I hate to say it, but it sounds a lot like politicians who said they had no choice but to immediately invade another country to stop the use of WMD…

Not Surprised September 28, 2005 4:11 PM

@ Davi

Ah, I wasn’t clear on what you were saying. I agree with you completely then. I just wish there was a way to open everyone’s eyes and stop this madness.

deidentified September 29, 2005 10:07 AM

The DNA information will and can be used against you. And it will never be destroyed or disposed of. This is such a bad thing. Beyond Reason. See Gattaca/Minority Report.

Wojo September 30, 2005 7:48 AM


“See Gattaca/Minority Report”

I believe that these are fictional.

Honestly, maybe we should also stop development in robotics and genetics. Think of all the movies that depict those going wrong.

I still don’t see why government DNA collection is so bad. So far all I have seen are comments that say it is very bad and that it could be used improperly by the government. But could it also be used properly and in a way that strengthened an individual’s identity?

Like any power, it would need to be reined in.

Brian Turner September 30, 2005 5:10 PM

Personally, I can’t wait for a DNA database to be finally implemented for law enforcement purposes.

It has always made sense that if that level of information was required in a police investigation, then it would be available to law-enforcement officers as required.

It’s dumb when you read about how many serious criminals, especially serial murderers and rapists, are left free to rampage because the nature of their crimes require the class of idenfication tools that only a DNA database can provide.

Certainly there will be pitfalls – commercial links and influences on using samples, for starters – but we already have fingerprinting as a form of personal ID and DNA fingerprinting can only be an extension of that principle.

Surely the benefits of a mandatory DNA database are going to far outweight the hazards?

After all, the protection of human rights shouldn’t be applied just to criminals, but also their victims and potential victims. Society tends to completely forget the latter and seek to preserve the rights of the former at their exclusion.


Blah.. Blah..Blah March 25, 2006 4:27 PM


I am so tired of hearing all about the rights being compromised. What about the victims rights. The rapists and murderers don’t care one bit about the victims rights. I believe people should stop protecting the scum out there and start caring about the innocent. If, yes if, it were to become a law that everyone had to become part of a universal DNA database, if you are not guilty of something then you have nothing to worry about. Yes, human error is an issue and always will be but it is a chance I certainly am willing to take to get these violent crimes somewhat under control. Women, children, and men are being raped every 20 seconds, if you were one of those statistics, imagine the terror you would be going through and what that DNA evidence would provide.

Bruce Schneier March 26, 2006 4:43 AM

“…imagine the terror you would be going through and what that DNA evidence would provide.”

The problem is that you’re imagining it, instead of doing actual research.

It’s a question of trade-offs: is the added security you’re getting worth the costs (social, financial, and so on)? The last time I saw actual data, there’s only a very small percentage of rape cases where the identity of the assaliant is not known and could turn on a DNA database.

Your argument makes for compelling rhetoric, as you so eloquently demonstrated. But be careful. The whole “victim’s rights” argument is a huge red herring.

yeaaaaaaaaa September 29, 2006 12:32 PM

DNA is cool, Gattaca was a cool movie, however i dont get why people dont want to hear about it. Imagine the possibilities it would have on humankind!!! It can be used in a way where everyone can agree

kathleen October 19, 2006 6:34 PM

NEVER give your dna away. wow, its amazing how little people know and im still in high school. i would never give my dna away, it tells everything about me. every substance that i’ve taken into my body. and someday you may be asked to give you dna away to apply for a job. they won’t being doing it for security reasons. they want to see if you’re an alcoholic, or if you abuse drugs.

genealogist November 17, 2006 12:34 PM

I’m part of a group which has traced their family lines using YDNA taken from saliva samples. That research is similar in some ways yet completely different from the CSI version. But yes if my DYS numbers some day get into a Fereral data base they will not only be able to indentify me but also any close male member in my entire family. It would take another sample and further testing to sort us out. So that could be more damaging than having a broader workup on file. Anyone directly descended from my 8th gen ancestor has the exact same numbers as I do.

Examination December 8, 2006 3:41 AM

“Reminds me of the Miami Herald article a while back discussing the capture of a rapist. Seems the Miami police department had a guys DNA from a previous (but different) case, but it took about 3 weeks? before someone even asked for it to be tested. In the meanwhile at least one more woman was raped.

Having the DNA still doesn’t mean it will get used correctly, or even compotently.”

Maybe you don’t realize that real forensics isn’t like CSI or those shows. In real forensics, it takes time, about 5-7 days. Also, most forensic labs are too busy with murder and drug related cases to much else.

I also fail to comprehend how having your DNA stored is such a bad thing. Sure, it will cost a lot of money, but DNA is unique. In fact, 99 or 99.9% of DNA is the same, it’s the last percentage that makes us all different. The sequences of the A-T and C-G bonds
are different from one person to
As someone already said along the lines of, ” If you didn’t do anything wrong, then you don’t have anything to worry about.”

A lot of people are going to turn out to be like the classic, ” I don’t believe it unless it happens to me or a family member, now I believe it”

I think taking DNA from one as an infant is a good idea. DNA doesn’t change throughout one’s life, and for the most part, its reliable.

joshua March 6, 2007 7:52 PM

response to kathleen:

“wow, its amazing how little people know and im still in high school. i would never give my dna away, it tells everything about me. every substance that i’ve taken into my body. and someday you may be asked to give you dna away to apply for a job. they won’t being doing it for security reasons. they want to see if you’re an alcoholic, or if you abuse drugs.”

i’m sorry miss, but your assumptions are incorrect. it is apparent that you are still in high school. you cannot tell what substances you have taken through your dna. your dna does not change if you do drugs or drink. don’t make ignorant generalizations about “how little people know.”

? March 15, 2007 6:08 PM

yes DNA is a massively complex thing. it holds info. on your personal genetics and actually you can trace family trees by comparing genetic similarities etc. a database for criminals i agree with but for everyone else who’s not no.

Anonymous October 15, 2007 7:41 PM

I had adebate today with my cousin.She thinks that you can use DNA to automatically solve a crime without any suspects. I tried to explain to her and her mom that you need a link (a suspect) to get dna from first to possible solve a crime. Also that you can’t just look at some fingerprint DNA and say who it belongs to. I also that falls in example with hospital and healthcare setting, when blood and urine specimens are collected for DNA , you have to have the person exact profile name etc . before you can detect a that person.Please let me know if I’m wrong or if they are correct and what is correct. I also know the US does not hve a national DNA database like the UK to automatically link crimes and paternity tests etc.

Blackwater April 20, 2008 10:57 AM

“Sponsors insist that adding DNA from people arrested or detained would lead to prevention of some crimes, and help solve others more quickly.”

So would removing the 4th Amendment and the Bill of Rights altogether.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am not willing to trade my privacy (or rights) because some politician figured out a way to appeal the most common denominator.

There is a reason we have a Bill of Rights and that reason has not changed. IMO the BOR is more important now than ever before.

thinker December 2, 2008 11:42 PM

The only reason you would be against this is if you already have, or are planning on commiting a crime, in which case you should not have an opinion in this matter.

JimFive December 3, 2008 10:36 AM


Or you understand that DNA analysis is not 100%. Or you worry about mission creep. Or you worry that you government might lie to you.


Wiseguy February 23, 2009 12:05 PM

Everyone here is afraid the fact if you sumbit your DNA to a national database that there give it to the health care compaines. Think about the solution to this promblem. In the UK, Canada, France, and many other countries in the EU theres socialized healthcare. So in America the solution to that promblem is American Socialized healthcare.

The other promblem your pointing out is that it would link people to crimes. Im an outgoing citizens so i have nothing to fear from having my blood in a database. I worry about the people who commit crimes and get away with them for the fact that theres not enough sufficent edvince to convict them.

Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing

Clive Robinson February 23, 2009 6:21 PM

@ Wiseguy,

“i have nothing to fear from having my blood in a database.”

Actualy you do.

The worry about “Health Care” is just part of the problem.

As time progresses then more is discovered about DNA and how people are affected by it.

A simple but not unrealistic issue is that of employment.

If research shows that a particular aspect of human DNA has a high corelation with DNA from chronic alchol abusers is an employer alowed to take this into consideration when they are recruting people?

What about early onset of heart problems / cancer / mental illnes?

How about various forms of criminality such as being a sociopath or peadophile?

Should you be arrested to stop you committing a crime?

The simple fact is that the information in your DNA is more than just a double edged sword it can take on the aura of “preordained”. Not just in the minds of insurers but in those proposing legislation.

Do you want those over whom you have little or no control to act as God over your ability to live?

Wiseguy February 24, 2009 11:47 AM

@ Clive

Frist off i like to point out the “petafiles” are not gentics there based on personal choice. Also a sociopath is not always gentic it could be based on how you are raised and what choices your guradians made with you.

Second of all lets look at this realisticaly if you are an empolyer then you would want the best person for the job. So if you could pre-screen for alcohol abusers or drug usage wouldnt you? Logicaly i would i dont want drunks showing up to work disrupting what i would be doing.

And essentialy (this is straining it) but if you could scan for cancer or mental illness or something we could essentialy find cures for them as well so we wouldnt have that promblem. But thats another subject.

And other not thing wouldnt you want someone who could be a crinimal stopped before he commits a crime. We both know how the media will protray that. If a criminal goes out and murders forty people or rapes three young girls and we could of prevented that dont you agree we should?

The god comment who says their directly influnce your life? Just cause they scan your DNA doesnt mean they will

Clive Robinson February 24, 2009 8:36 PM

@ Wiseguy,

I think you have misuderstood my point.

If research is done that says “90% of XXXX have the gene YYYY”

It does not say if you have gene YYYY then you must be a XXXX (alcoholic / criminal / etc).

However a large number of people would assume the opposit. If for no other reason than to play safe.

It is the same as somebody in HR finding out you take a particular drug (Tricyclic Antidepressant). They look it up on the Internet and see that it is a treatment for psychotic disorders.

They assume that it means you are a “psyco” and take appropriate measures to either not employ you or “down size you”.

You however are taking them because your doctor knows that the are very effective for dealing with the nerve pain you have from shingles.

The fact that you have gene YYYY does not say you are an XXXX or that you ever will be. Saying that it is, is the same as saying you have “no freedom of choice”.

If you have no freedom of choice then it is “preordained”. Therfore when it comes to committing a crime or other unsocial activity then logicaly you cannot be held responsable it’s “preordained” therfore you cannot be “guilty” in the legal sense either.

One of the problems with genetics is the speed at which it is progressing. When the human genome project was started the sequencing equipment then available would have made the project take over a hundred years. However the rapid advancment in sequency technology ment it actually took a relativly short time.

A full sequencing of a persons DNA is currently quite expensive and rarely done. However within a generation it is likley to be in the same cost range as various standard diagnostic medical tests, and could well be less than the current cost of “DNA matching”.

This gives rise to the question of if the electrophoresis chart currently used for DNA matching will be considered accurate in a generations time (it is open to fairly simple operator intervention).

You need to remember that if you give a blood sample today that sample is not going to be thrown away it will be stored like any other identity evidence such as photographs and fingerprints (even undergarments).

As an example, technology has been demonstrated that shows that a full face and profile photographs can be used to electronicaly identify you via CCTV camera and be automaticaly followed. When the Police first started keeping “mug shots” nobody would have predicted in their wildest dreams that this would be possible.

Technology develops way way faster than society does. And society is resource limited so technology is often used to perform triage on the population in one way or another.

My point about acting as God, is that humans are very falable and technologists will sell technical solutions to absolve people from the responsability of choice. It is a natural desire to “cover your 455” so people will take every oportunity they can to protect themselves.

Therefore if you have gene YYYY and it is known, you will be disadvantaged not because you are or vaguly might be a XXXX but simply because it is safer to asume you are.

Would you want your right to vote to be suspended simply because you have gene YYYY?

Think back a few years as to why certain racial minorities where segregated and denied equal oportunities, education and the vote and what the eventual outcome was.

Do you want to be discriminated against because of your skin colour?

I think not, so why would you want to allow the potential for you to be discriminated againt because of your genetics?

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.