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What Will We Do With Innocent People's DNA? 595

Posted by timothy
from the if-you-have-nothing-to-hide dept.
NevDull writes "As creepy as it may be to deal with identity theft from corporate databases, imagine being swabbed for DNA samples as a suspect in a crime, being vindicated by that sample, and never even being told why you were suspected. This article discusses a man, Roger Valadez, who's fighting both to have his DNA sample and its profile purged from government records, and to find out why he and his DNA were searched in the BTK case. DA Nola Foulston said, 'I think some people are overwrought about their concerns.' -- convenient as she wasn't the one probed without explanation. The article then mentions that 'In California, police will be able in 2008 to take DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, whether the person is convicted or not, under a law approved by voters in November.' What will be the disposition of the DNA of the innocent?"
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What Will We Do With Innocent People's DNA?

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  • Nothing to Fear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:12PM (#12005550) Homepage Journal
    DA Nola Foulston said, 'I think some people are overwrought about their concerns.'

    In a country where the federal government has been concentrating power in the capital, I can't see where she gets such bizarre ideas.

    We're heading for a country where everyone is a potential suspect, eventually. And when the congress pulls and late nighter and the president flies back to the capital to quickly sign a bill allowing the government to barge past states rights and personal descisions it's discomforting. It would probably be a small matter to bury into a large bill some little thing that allows the transportation of all DNA evidence to be conveniently sent to the Foggy Bottom and squirreled away somewhere, where it could be called upon the next time someone needs a roundup of the usual suspects and a filing error could easily send anyone off to Gitmo.

    • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mistlefoot (636417) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:26PM (#12005740)
      everyone is always a potential suspect.

      What of the poor sap who has an affair with someone who happens to get raped/murdered on her way home.

      That his sperm has been found in her body and definitly matches means he's guilty?

      How do you prove you had consentual sex with a now dead women. There are many such instances were the DNA found at the scene does not mean guilt. It seems to be the rule of thumb these days. If the DNA is there you are deemed guilty.
    • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pizzaman100 (588500) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:33PM (#12005844) Journal
      And when the congress pulls and late nighter and the president flies back to the capital to quickly sign a bill allowing the government to barge past states rights and personal descisions it's discomforting.

      Ok, I'll bite. States rights are non existent, and have been for some. Just last week the SC ruled that it's illegal for any state in the union to put to death a 17 year old who commits multiple premeditated murders. Try to have your state lower the drinking age to 19, or opt out of Social Security, or pass a law against abortion or (insert idea here). This cuts both ways politically. But unfortunately the different party wings only howl when it comes to an issue that they care about. The rest of the time they have no problem with the Feds imposing their will.

      • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Try to have your state lower the drinking age to 19

        Bad example, since the drinking age is already set by states. There is no federal drinking age.

        It happens to be 21 because federal highway funding to the states is tied to compliance with setting it to that age. However, there was a span of time where certain states such as Louisiana had a lower legal age. (The theory is that Louisiana makes more money off alcohol sales during Mardi Gras than they get from highway funding, but who knows) ;)
        • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jadavis (473492) on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:02PM (#12007778)
          I think that was his point...

          The feds take a large amount of taxes from everyone already, so there's no hope of the states supporting their own road system.

          Reduce it to the following situation and then recosider your statement:

          The feds take the states' citizens' money.
          The feds offer to give it back if they say "how high" when the feds say jump.

          It's not like the state can say "OK, we'll pay you that much less in taxes then.". If Cali opts out, all the other states are basically just confiscating Californians' money.
      • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thunderstruck (210399)
        Try to have your state lower the drinking age to 19, or opt out of Social Security, or pass a law against abortion or (insert idea here).

        Actually, if you read South Dakota v. Dole, its pretty clear that your state is quite free to set the drinking age wherever it likes. (As long as it does not mind paying for its own roads.) Other cases such as Morrison & Lopez, (which held that Washington D.C. cannot make it a crime to carry a firearm in a school zone, or create a civil cause of action for abused w
    • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BWJones (18351) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:34PM (#12005852) Homepage Journal
      You should also know that every individual that serves in the armed forces is required to submit a blood sample for DNA isolation and data warehousing. Of course these databases are supposed to be used principally for identification of remains, there are other more insidious plans that some individuals have proposed and acted upon with these data. i.e. using the data to test database systems and index them to criminal records. The problem of course like I have said before is that once these databases are created, it is very difficult to put the djinni back in the bottle. People will access them and include them in other projects.

      • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:3, Interesting)

        by quarkscat (697644)
        Exactly right!

        If you are a law abiding citizen, never beat your
        wife or dog or kids, always pay you taxes on time,
        never have a difference of opinion with your
        neighbor or coworker or politician, attend church
        or mosque or synagogue every week, never engage in
        extramarital or kinky sex, then you really don't
        have anything to fear.

        But if you deviate from the straight and narrow
        path dictated by the government or society's
        "norms", you might risk being considered as a
        suspicious person, or worst yet as a "security
        ri
    • Why is it that people think that new technologies always mean new risks to rights? The issues dealing with keeping DNA records are surely no different to those for figerprints etc.

      If someone gets tested for fingerprints or DNA the same basic procedures apply. Some countries allow the data to be gathered for a single investigation only. Others allow the collected info to be cross matched against the "open cases" database.

      Personally, I think this something that is far less likely to be abused. I'd rather a f

      • The problem is that unlike a fingerprint where I can throw it up on a projector in the court room and show the crime scene sample against my own and demonstrate to the jury that the DA is so desperate to convict me for a crime I didn't commit, they're willing to claim my fingerprint is a match on one point.

        Harder to do that with DNA. Instead, you get some "expert" coming in to say "yes, the DNA matched." And then you end up like Houston, with dozens of cases that turned out to be total bullshit. Hundre
      • How's this?:

        State accumulates DNA on all residents. Insurance company files FOI request and gets all the data, then refuses to issue health insurance for anyone they think might have a genetic predisposition for certain diseases. Since many now think that homosexuality is genetic, and homosexuals are more likely to get AIDS, they might refuse to insure all persons whose DNA might imply homosexuality.

        • No they couldn't

          http://www.usdoj.gov/04foia/referenceguidemay99.h t m#how [usdoj.gov]

          Likewise, files relating to another person regarding a matter the disclosure of which would invade that person's privacy ordinarily will not be disclosed. For example, if you seek information that would show that someone else (including even your spouse or another member of your immediate family) has ever been the subject of a criminal investigation -- or even was mentioned in a criminal file -- you will be requested to provide e

          • by n.wegner (613340) on Monday March 21, 2005 @09:19PM (#12006850)
            >Likewise, files relating to another person regarding a
            >matter the disclosure of which would invade that person's
            >privacy ordinarily will not be disclosed ...
            >Also due to the fees involved making such a wide request
            >would be hideously expensive

            What stops the insurance company from raising their signup fee to include the check, and raising the fees of people who do not submit to having the check made? Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
    • Re:Nothing to Fear (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zemran (3101)
      The problem has already arisen in that these databases are already becoming global. I no longer have the link but a man was arrested in England a couple of years ago for a crime commited in Italy. He was arrested because his DNA matched the DNA found at a crime scene. He had never left England in his life and did not have a passport. He had a big fight on his hands because we have already got to the stage were we assume that DNA is infalable when it is not. Just like fingerprints, we match so many poin
  • by foobsr (693224) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:13PM (#12005558) Homepage Journal
    We will end up with two categories of samples:
    • convicted
    • not convicted (obviously)

    Do some analyses to enable you to categorize from an unlabeled sample.

    <cyn> Imagine how useful that could be!</cyn>

    I think some people are overwrought about their concerns.

    Yes, I am.

    CC.
    • We will end up with two categories of samples:

      If you can ever find Walk Kelly's Pogo strips from the 70's, he nails Agnew for this very line of logic. Guess who isn't the one locked up in the jail? It is a bit like Nixon, again, isn't it?

    • How about a system where the current (convicted?) DNA samples are seperate from the not convicted samples. The not convicted samples are listed only by number and if a match shows up as a number, a judge gets to make the call as to whether the information is released.

      Of course there would still have to be a system in place that keeps them only adding data to that database when it is taken for a valid reason.

    • Actually, I would think this would be more along the lines of:

      1. Convicted
      2. Not Convicted because the computer hasn't hiccupped yet.

      Let's see, how many different DNA labs have had their hands slapped for fabricating their results? Like the one in the city of Houston, Texas. (Where they are completely overhauling their labs because of problems.)

      How many times has it been found out that someone went to jail not because they are guilty but because someone else wanted them out of the way?

      How many death r
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:14PM (#12005578)
    Clone the innocent people. Eventually the ratio of innocent to guilty people will be through the roof, OMG.
  • by pHatidic (163975) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:14PM (#12005580)
    We keep their DNA sample, and then plant some at the crime scene the next time we kill someone. Wow that was the easiest ask slashdot ever.
  • by darth_MALL (657218) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:15PM (#12005582)
    A Grand Army Of the Republic!

    No bad can come of that...right?
  • It's just data... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zecg (521666) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:15PM (#12005584)
    I don't think it's really about samples - the man hardly needs his skinflakes or his hair bits back and he sheds it all around anyway. As for the data it represents? Why, "we" keep it forever, of course. He is just the first in line, I'm willing to bet that within 20 years "we" will have a database of DNA samples from all "our" citizens - or whoever accepts my bet wins my slightly weathered tinfoil hat.
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:15PM (#12005587) Journal
    'In California, police will be able in 2008 to take DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, whether the person is convicted or not, under a law approved by voters in November.

    There is something called the 5th amendment, protection against self incrimination.

    Here it is, in case people forgot:

    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    • by xlr8ed (726203)
      Under your reasoning, fingerprints would be allowed either and they have been doing that for, what 50+ years
    • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:21PM (#12005664) Homepage Journal
      This obviously doesn't apply to having one'spicture taken and being fingerprinted as that happens to everybody who get arrested, felon or not.

      How is DNA any different?
      • by spiritraveller (641174) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:45PM (#12005986)
        It's more reliable, more useful, more efficent... and people believe in it.

        People are afraid because they think that all it will take is some lab person to testify that the dna matched and they will be convicted.

        Of course we've never had a problem with that before [cnn.com].
      • by DM9290 (797337)
        How is DNA any different?

        Who says it is?.

        This same argument has been going on in regards of what to do with photographs and fingerprints of people after they are aquitted.

        After a person is cleared on the offence there is no additional benefit to society to keep their personal information which outweighs the invasion of privacy that person suffers for having that information be on the "Record".

        For an innocent person, having their fingerprints show up in a criminal database is an invasion of privacy. Tha
      • I'll take a wild guess and say, In a word, contamination.

        If I roll your hand in ink and blot it, I know whose ink I am looking at.

        If I snap a photo, I know it's your photo.

        If I don't clean my pipetteman and mix your DNA and someone elses . . .

        you can't deny that your sample is glowing on the chip when probed with DNA recovered from the scene. It's not your DNA glowing, it's the contamination.

        Who cares, this case is closed. Don't drop the soap.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    purges self from gene pool before making stupid joke &&&[NO CARRIER]
  • by lecithin (745575) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:16PM (#12005604)
    Usually just being arrested means that you will be fingerprinted and your picture taken.

    Isn't this pretty much the same thing?

    • Getting a driver license gets you fingerprinted and yur picture taken in many places, including California. Yes, we will keep these things forever, just in case.
      • That's one fingerprint. It helps you verify that a cooperative person actually the license holder. However, it is of little use for forensic purposes.
      • And in many places (Michigan, Illinois) it doesn't require a fingerprint and they don't store the photograph except on the license.

        Ironic that the places with *incredible* problems with machine politics are the ones whose policies are more protective of the citizenry, isn't it?

        (Excepting of course the sad tendency of Chicago cops to get promoted for beating the heads of innocent citizens to a pulp, and the sad tendency of Detroit politicians to never have to actually *do* anything to improve their city an
    • by John Seminal (698722) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:24PM (#12005699) Journal
      Usually just being arrested means that you will be fingerprinted and your picture taken. Isn't this pretty much the same thing?

      Here is the difference. If someone steals a database of fingerprints, what can they do with that? But if someone steals a database of DNA, and for example an insurance company gets it, can you gaurentee they won't have different rates just based on the genes you are born with. And what if they discover that gene X, Y, and Z found together cause a 25% increased chance the person with those genes will be a murderer. Do we want a society, where just being born with certain genes is enough to warrent government keeping tabs on that person? I know, I know, if it is for public saftey, it must be okay. Just like major cities are installing 1000's of camera's on streets to keep track of what is going on. And California banned the .50 caliber rifle, which has never been used in a crime that I can think of (although getting a handgun is easier and used in more crimes). It seems to me, that in an attempt to make society more "safe", we are making society more ripe for some dictator to take control. I know, I must be wearing a tin foil hat, because coup's have never happened. I for one completely trust people with power not to get corrupted, ever.

      • Cali banned the .50? :oops:
        -nB
    • My fingerprints and picture can't be used to determine if I have a greater chance of getting heart disease, cancer, etc. Could my DNA be used to deny me healthcare, insurance, etc?
    • by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:27PM (#12005754) Homepage
      Usually just being arrested means that you will be fingerprinted and your picture taken. Isn't this pretty much the same thing?

      It depends. A regular DNA fingerprint doesn't really reveal anything about your genetic disposition, so it's not such a big problem. However, it's not clear if DNA fingerprinting is as resistant to collisions as it is generally perceived to be. It's fine if you match one sample against a few hundred suspects connected with the case; it's very unlikely that there is a false positive. But if you match thousands of samples a day against a database of millions of completely unrelated DNA fingerprinters, the odds of a false positive increase significantly.
    • by aralin (107264) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:30PM (#12005795)
      Here is a big difference. While your kids are going to have totally different fingerprints and even pictures, their DNA to you will be largely similar. So by taking your DNA, you are putting your kids and your relatives in the database as well. If there is a partial match with someone in the database, they will just go after all his relatives and eventually find the right one. They just got a recent mass murder case solved when a daughter of a suspect volunteered to give a DNA sample, when he refused.
      • They just got a recent mass murder case solved when a daughter of a suspect volunteered to give a DNA sample, when he refused.

        No, what they got was sufficient cause for a warrant.

        They used the daughter's DNA to obtain a warrant for *his* DNA.
  • fingerprints? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    what do they do about fingerprints right now? Fingerprints and DNA at least to the police seems very related.
  • by DoctoRoR (865873) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:18PM (#12005629) Homepage

    It seems like much of the angst over a national DNA database is the potential misuse of the sequences, e.g. raising insurance rates or selecting against carriers of X. If the goal of criminal DNA databases is to match samples from crime scenes, why not use a one-way hash of each DNA fragment? That way, the actual DNA sequence wouldn't be kept. The hash could be constructed after removing common sequences, but I'm probably missing something aside from sequencing issues (which should be more automated in future). And this doesn't address larger issues on DNA matches...

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:29PM (#12005788)
      Maybe the sample from the crime scene is degraded so you can say it was "probably" this person (like 1 in 10,000) but not certianly. Also you can match within families. You run DNA and discover it isn't person X's DNA, but a female relitive, etc.

      So a hash would only be useful for dead on matches. Now maybe we decide that's all that the police should have, but you can see why they'd argue for more the orignals, as they are more useful.
  • Privacy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    And what about our right against self-incrimination, protected by the 5th Amendment? Why is only our cerebellum protected? Why can we be compelled to give involutnary testimony by divulting DNA, possibly our most private info, short of our thoughts? If they can get our DNA, can't they get a MRI scan, while they ask us questions? Will they stop when they learn to read them?
  • by Stiletto (12066) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:23PM (#12005691)
    "To imagine the future, imagine a boot stepping on a human face -- forever."

    -George Orwell
  • "What will be the disposition of the DNA of the innocent?"

    Wait, let me guess. Same as the disposition of the photographs and fingerprints of the innocent?

    I don't get it. How is the potential for abuse any higher just because the sample is DNA? To me, the benefits of being able to solve a years old case based on DNA samples outweighs the risks of abuse within the system. Lets give the cops the tools they need to put the crooks away. Just make sure there are no loopholes in the law that would allow
    • by John Seminal (698722) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:35PM (#12005870) Journal
      I don't get it. How is the potential for abuse any higher just because the sample is DNA? To me, the benefits of being able to solve a years old case based on DNA samples outweighs the risks of abuse within the system. Lets give the cops the tools they need to put the crooks away.

      The police have pleanty of tools to solve crimes. They don't need any more. It comes down to one thing. Either we are a free and open society, or we become a police state. If we make the police so powerful, that the People can no longer fight back if the cause ever comes that they need to, what will we be? Will we be no more able to fight for our own freedom than Iraqi people could fight for theirs under a dictator? The reason we limit the power police have is the same reason we limit the power politicians have. It is to protect against the over ambitious, the Joseph McCarthy's of the world. The easier it is for a group to take control of a society, the more likely they will do so. All the police camera's in larger cities, put in place to fight "the war on terror" do nothing but track citizens, not terrorists. DNA is one more way of keeping tabs on people.

      I have one question. How would history be different if DNA technology was avilable in the 1950's, and if all black people were forced to submit DNA. Then government decided to do more than just bug telephones and listen in. The possibilities for abuse are too great.

  • Nothing, really. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by simetra (155655)
    If you're innocent, no problem.

    You leave your fingerprints everywhere. You don't cry like a baby about people having access to your fingerprints. You likewise leave bits of DNA all over the place (ala Gattica).

    Please show me where we are guaranteed the right to total annonymity (sp?) all the time everywhere. Better yet, retroactive guaranteed annonymity always everywhere all the stinking time!!! It doesn't exist. It's a paranoid pre-conception!



  • I'm more concerned about the potential for abuse by outsiders than by the law enforcement authorities. You can't tell my predisposition to an illness or disorder from my fingerprints, but you certainly can from my DNA. How long will it be before health/life insurers and employers bribe the right politicians and get access to this stuff -- probably under the guise of "background checks" or some similar nonsense?
  • by 10am-bedtime (11106) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:26PM (#12005745)

    if the people have given the state the right to spy on them, tag them, track, divide and thus conquer them, then the people have lost their innocence. it will be difficult to find it again because corruption doesn't kill innocence, it defaces it and leaves it the subject of mockery. in this way, the mean spirited ride the tides of entropy over their and in fact all unborn children.

    can corruption be eased-off, or must it be broken?

  • innocent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:27PM (#12005752) Homepage
    What will be the disposition of the DNA of the innocent?

    "No one is innocent!" --Agent Rogersz, Repo Man

  • by the_skywise (189793) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:28PM (#12005761)
    The violation is that the guy had his door busted down, had his house searched and DNA taken and the police never told him WHY he was a suspect.

    That the DNA didn't "solve" the case was inconsequential because the DNA did helpe the police confirm who the guy was.

    The question that should be asked here is not "Should the police be able to take samples of your DNA when you're arrested?" No brainer, you can already take fingerprints.

    The bigger question here is: Can the police KEEP your DNA on profile *AND* can they keep the results of what they found while searching your house?

    What if they found illegally downloaded music in his house? Could he be tried for that? Should those records be kept from the first search?

    DNA aside (and IANAL) the current law is yes and yes.
  • by Goo.cc (687626) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:31PM (#12005810)
    While I was in the US Navy, they started a DNA cataloging program, which they claimed was only intended to help identify people in the case of death. They claimed that the information would never be shared and would be discarded after discharge.

    It has been 8 years since I was discharged. Want to bet that my information is available to law enforcement, even though I have never been convicted or accused of a crime?
  • by Jack Johnson (836341) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:32PM (#12005824)
    "If you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about." That line has become thouroughly entrenched in our society. Any and everything can be justified to the average american with that phrase.
    • 1943, a hare came to the swiss-german borders. The swiss customs-officer asked "well, why do you want the seek asylum in switzerland?" "Well, you see, Hitler started going after cangaroos", the hare replied. "Well, you're not a cangaroo, so you have nothing to worry about", the officer said. The hare: "Well, prove that to Hitler!"

      Its a bit a stretch, but the bottom line is of course that you may have something to worry about even if you're innocent. Because your governement or your police officers might no
  • In Michigan (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:32PM (#12005825) Homepage
    Everyone convicted of a felony has to give a DNA sample before sentencing.

  • Same law in the UK (Score:4, Interesting)

    by UpnAtom (551727) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:35PM (#12005876) Homepage
    Blair is also trying to compulsorily fingerprint everyone and tie together ALL the computerised data held on people through a unique National Identity Number.

    Oh, he's also going to track our daily movements through automatic CCTV facial recognition & the ID Card audit trail.

    This law has been passed by House of Commons and is currently being debated in the House of Lords. Unless the Lords block it, I'm emigrating somewhere less Orwellian. Anyone want to swap citizenship? I'm serious...

  • Data never goes away (Score:5, Interesting)

    by billstewart (78916) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:36PM (#12005890) Journal
    Data never goes away once it's collected. (That doesn't count Murphy's Law of course - data you really want goes away quite easily.) Computer storage is cheap, and keeps becoming radically cheaper. Software and system administration / management costs aren't cheap, and don't get cheaper, and systems that weren't explicitly designed to get rid of data mean that expunging data is typically an expensive unreliable manual process. And that's just the costs of expunging the data in the active database - that doesn't count hunting through backup tapes, etc. New software and applications, on the other hand, can often import data from existing systems (again, minus the Murphy's Law issues), and when they do so, they usually aren't very good about maintaining any constraints on usage of the data, and usually aren't very good about backtracking if you want to find out who's had access to the data or get them to erase it.

    All of this means that any law or policy that increases data collection is not only dangerous, but the data usually gets used for other things beyond the original purpose - information *does* want to be free. Anything that hangs an unique identifier on data, such as a National ID Card Number (or SSN, or SIN, or driver's license number), makes it easy for data to be imported into other systems and aggregated together. Anything that hangs a non-unique ID onto something, like a firstname+lastname, increases the chances that data will be imported into other systems incorrectly, combining your data with known criminal SameFirstInitial+DifferentMiddleInitial+SimilarLas tname who lives in a different city. In both cases, you'll never get the data expunged.

    On the other hand, Moore's Law also means that applications that used to be unthinkable are now routine. When mainframes costs tens of millions of dollars and needed to be fed punchcards and stored stuff on magtape, writing database applications took a couple of years and a large budget, so only critical applications that could be used by lots of people got written. These days, a cheap desktop computer can hold lots more data, and any random civil servant can run a Spreadsheet query or simple fill-out-the-form database application for anything they feel like, such as tracking their ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend's phone bills. And most of that data could really fit in a pocket-computer as well, so next year that same civil servant or telemarketer can take a picture of your face or license plate using their camera-phone and look it up for some arbitrary reason (currently it takes a laptop for the license-plate lookup, and it's being done to nail parking ticket non-payers.)

  • by multiplexo (27356) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:39PM (#12005918) Journal
    bomb in the future to obscure evidence. You get some blood plasma, or some other fluid that contains a lot of DNA, get samples from different people, mix it up, put it in a bottle with an M-80 taped to it and set it off at the crime scene. Voila, the police end up with so many DNA fragments that there's no way they can tell who did the crime.

    If you don't want to use an M80 just get a spritzer bottle full of some DNA containing fluid and spray it everywhere all over a crime scene. I wonder if you could extract DNA sequences from barber shop cuttings and do this?

  • Innocent...UNTIL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:39PM (#12005923)
    The DNA of innocent people will almost certainly end up in the same database as the felons...maybe with a flag that this individual has not YET been charged with a crime...but being in the database itself will be something of a "lite" suspicious attribute.

    We are moving towards a police state, and society has overwhelmingly chosen "safety" over privacy, liberty, and freedom. It is only a matter of time before the govt requires all residents and citizens to be in such databases.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:50PM (#12006040) Homepage
    Maybe this has changed in the last few years, but the last time I looked into this, there was a significant risk in having DNA on file. The problem was that DNA tests consist of comparing the sample against the sample from the presumed criminal at a small number of positions. There will actually be many people in the world who will match the criminal's DNA.

    When properly used, this is not a problem. "Properly used" means that you find your suspects using traditional methods, and afterwards run a DNA test on them. Get a match there, and you've got your criminal. It's a Bayesian thing, basically.

    What is not proper is to start with DNA, and test the criminal's against all the people you happen to have DNA on file for, looking for a match.

    Using DNA to find suspects is only good when you either have a comprehensive database that has DNA from everyone, or your tests are so accurate that they really do uniquely identify people. Like I said, I don't know if they are accurate enough for that. A few years ago, they were not.

  • Rights (Score:3, Interesting)

    by t_allardyce (48447) on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:14PM (#12006277) Journal
    In the US whats the law on criminal records - do you have access to everything the police have on you? can they give it to other people? This is gonna be a very important issue especially if finger-print scanners make it big - which i think is a very bad idea, using biometrics means a) if someone gets a copy theres no way to 'change your biometric pin number' and b) stealing your biometrics can mean cutting off your finger.

    You need to at least have the right to know exactly what personal data any organisation has on you (a right enjoyed by the EU)
  • I'm in California (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Evets (629327) on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:15PM (#12006283) Homepage Journal
    When this thing came around for a vote last year, I talked to a lot of people about it. To me, it was absurd that the government would be able to take your DNA, profile it, maintain it in a "sexual offenders" database, and never have to remove it - even if you are proven innocent.

    It's scary. All they have to do is arrest you for a crime - without any real evidence - and then you are labeled a sex offender for life.

    To my surprise, nobody I know - other than my wife - was with me on this one. Most people here equate it to fingerprinting. If you get fingerprinted, then they keep it forever. This is vastly different though. They are not only keeping identifying information, they are labelling it "sex offender", making it a matter of public record, and maintaining that record regardless of conviction.

    This has potential for abuse written all over it.
  • by jeblucas (560748) <jeblucas&gmail,com> on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:17PM (#12006301) Homepage Journal
    'In California, police will be able in 2008 to take DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, whether the person is convicted or not, under a law approved by voters in November.'
    For those that think you can just have the record expunged if you are found innocent, here's the fine print from the statute. (Source is here [ca.gov], page 143):

    (a)A person whose DNA profile has been included in the data bank pursuant to this chapter shall have his or her DNA specimen and sample destroyed and searchable database profile expunged from the data bank program pusuant to the procedures set forth in subdivision (b) if the person has no past or present offense or pending charge which qualifies that person [for inclusion] and there is otherwise no legal bases for retaining the specimen or sample or searchable profile.

    (b)Pursuant to subdivision (a), a person who has no past or present qualifying offense, and for whom there otherwise is no legal basis for retaining the specimen or sample or searchable profile, may make a written request to have his or her specimen and sample and searchable database profile expunged from the data bank program if:

    1. Following arrest, no accusatory pleading has been filed within the applicable period allowed by law charging the person with a qualifying offense as set forth [earlier] or if the charges which served as the basis for including the DNA profile [in the data bank] have been dismissed prior to adjudication by a trier of fact;
    2. The underlying conviction or disposition serving as the basis for including the DNA profile has been reversed and the case dismissed;
    3. The person has been found factually innocent of the underlying offense [pusuant to statute]; or
    4. The defendent has been found not guilty or the defendent has been acquitted of the underlying offense.

    (c)(1)The person requesting the data bank entry to be expunged must send a copy of his or her request to the trial court of the county where the arrest occured, or that entered the conviction or rendered disposition in the case, to the [lab], and to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which he or she was arrested or, convicted, or adjudicated, with proof of service on all parties. The court has the discretion to grant or deny the request for expungement. The denial of a request for expungement is a nonappealable order and shall not be reviewed by petition or writ.

    Emphasis mine. So even if you jump through the damn complicated hoops, a judge can just say "No" and you are done--it's there for good. That's some great law, California! As for the earlier poster that thinks this is OK because we leave DNA everywhere anyway, like Gattaca--that movie did not represent this situation as a GOOD THING. It was a dystopian vision, not something to begrudgingly accept.

  • by hotspotbloc (767418) on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:55PM (#12006604) Homepage Journal
    In January 2005 the Truro, MA Police Department announced that they wanted to collect DNA samples from 800 men, the vast majority of the town's male population, in hopes of solving a woman's murder who's solution have alluded the local authorities for three years. The recommendation originated with FBI Investigators assisting with the case. The chilling comment came from Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe who said that investigators "will be compelled to look at why people won't" submit a DNA sample.

    What happens if mass testing becomes "routine" throughout the US? The fair and proper terms for the disposal of DNA samples of vindicated people is going to become a big, big thing. And please, don't give me "if you're innocent you have nothing to fear". DNA evidence can easily be altered or corrupted within the first few hours of collection. Especially if you have a sample already in hand. A very uncommon thing today but who can say about tomorrow.

    We all know the answer to these questions:

    Will the DNA sample of a vindicated person be disposed of after the trial, after all appeals or never? Never

    Will the refusal to voluntarily give a DNA sample subject you to further scrutiny than a similar person who willingly submits? Yes

    Will employers someday within the next ten years require a DNA sample for employment, similar to how most major retail chains require a test for legel and illegal drug use (Like Wal-Mart or Home Depot)? Yes

    Will the US Congress do anything to protect the rights of the individual into this intrusion into one's privacy? No

    Welcome to the New Amerika. Please leave your quaint notions of personal freedom at the border.

    Here and Now : Truro DNA Case - 1/12/2005 [here-now.org]
    Boston.com / News / Local / DNA testing troubles some in Truro [boston.com]
    CBS News ACLU Slams Mass DNA Collection [cbsnews.com]
    USATODAY.com - ACLU seeks end to Mass. DNA collections [usatoday.com]
    Cape Cod Times article: "New England town abuzz over DNA dragnet" [unknownnews.org]

  • by OneIsNotPrime (609963) on Monday March 21, 2005 @09:05PM (#12006696)
    ... technically there is no 'Innocent' status under, at least, U.S. law. There is only 'Not Guilty', which is quite different.
  • by eric2hill (33085) <eric@ijack.YEATSnet minus poet> on Monday March 21, 2005 @11:37PM (#12008056) Homepage
    I live in Wichita, and I have an uncle that was actually a better match to BTK than Dennis Raider. He graduated from the same university 2 years earlier, lived closer to the railroad tracks, and goes by the name Buk. Buk is only one letter off from btk, btw.

    The police came to his house. His wife opened the door. The police asked if they could have a swab of his DNA. He didn't resist, and the police were very polite through the whole ordeal.

    Now, in this case there was no police brutality, no coersion, no force, etc. Just a simple "may we get a swab of your DNA". My uncle had the right to say no, but obviously the police would have held him under the microscope.

    There are really two separate issues in play here.

    First, do the police have a right to request DNA evidense from a potentical suspect. I believe they do have the right to ask. I also believe the fifth ammendment gives the right to not incriminate yourself, so you do have the right to say no. The police will still consider you a suspect, but that's the way the law works.

    Second, (and more importantly) once the police have cleared your name, does the DNA evidense get thrown away or warehoused? Everything said in the local papers and news has been that the evidense will get thrown away, but it would be nice to have some confirmation of that fact. I'll tell you that if the evidense doesn't get thrown away, the DA is going to get an ear-full from some 1300 of our swabbed citizens.

    Side note, I actually have a family member that works at the prision where Dennis is being held. He said that Dennis didn't like the food. <g>
  • by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Tuesday March 22, 2005 @01:59AM (#12009058) Homepage Journal
    To a certain part of the criminal justice system, there are no innocent people... merely people for whom it has not yet been established what they are guilty of.

    I wish I was joking.
  • by IIH (33751) on Tuesday March 22, 2005 @02:00AM (#12009067)
    This already happens in the UK, if you are charged the police can take DNA samples, etc, and under laws passed a few years back, keep them as long as they like, even if the charge proves groundless. (previously you could witness them being destroyed)

    It's going to be a close race between the UK and the US as to which becomes the full police state earlier!

  • by mrogers (85392) on Tuesday March 22, 2005 @09:27AM (#12010862)
    In California, police will be able in 2008 to take DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, whether the person is convicted or not

    In the UK, police can already take a DNA sample if you're arrested for any crime (even if you're not charged, let alone convicted). Samples are kept indefinitely and added to the national DNA database [theregister.co.uk], which could be sold to private companies [guardian.co.uk] or cross-referenced with the National Identity Register [computerweekly.com] to find out the subject's current name and address.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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