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FBI and States Vastly Expand DNA Collection, Databases 203

Posted by timothy
from the because-dna-evidence-is-unimpeachable dept.
Mike writes "Starting this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial, and will also collect DNA from detained immigrants. For example, this year, California began taking DNA upon arrest, and expects to nearly double the growth rate of its database (PDF), to 390,000 profiles a year, up from 200,000. Until now, the federal government genetically tracked only convicts, however law enforcement officials are expanding their collection of DNA to include millions of people who have only been arrested or detained, but not yet convicted. The move, intended to 'help solve more crimes,' is raising concerns about the privacy of petty offenders and people who are presumed innocent."
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FBI and States Vastly Expand DNA Collection, Databases

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  • GATTACA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluffy99 (870997) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @03:39PM (#27629731)
    Scary how we are quickly moving towards the society depicted in GATTACA.
  • Hmmm. (Score:2, Troll)

    by WindBourne (631190)
    Lets start taking DNA from all illegal's before sending back. If they cross over a second time, then a year in prison.
  • by Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @03:45PM (#27629795) Journal

    If your DNA is at the crime scene you're guilty until proven innocent. Duh.

    • Just because your DNA is at a crime scene, does not mean you are considered guilty. It doesn't even make you a suspect.

      It does mean the police may have questions for you, if you were not quite a long ways away and the DNA just happened to be there from a long ago visit.

      DNA collection is one of those things that sounds scary but I have trouble seeing what the real problem is. Police have an easier time finding people to ask questions about a crime and get to the solution? That's not all negative, and the

      • So anyone up to a rational non-fear based debate to talk about the true negatives of DNA collection?

        How about "The government should fear the people, not the other way around."

        Oops - wait - you wanted a non-fear based debate. Um, okay, well nevermind then. I'm sure everything's going to be alright.

    • by khasim (1285)

      Because people have some strange belief in the infallibility of:
      #1. The people taking the DNA sample at the crime scene.
      #2. The database keeping the DNA tags.
      #3. The people taking the DNA sample to enter it into the database.
      #4. DNA samples being completely unique.

      Instead, DNA should be used to clear suspects. Not to find them. It just isn't reliable enough.

      But that's not how it is shown on TV. And TV is where most people get their education.

      • by mpe (36238)
        Because people have some strange belief in the infallibility of: #1. The people taking the DNA sample at the crime scene.

        As well as the tools they are using. As was recently the case in Germany.

        #4. DNA samples being completely unique.

        Identical twins have the same complete genome, someone who has received a transplaned organ may in some cases show the genome of the doner. The big problem is that what gets compared is a tiny piece of the genome. Which can produce a match between people who are not close
    • You're making stuff up. Investigators know that a hit in a DNA database isn't as good as other evidence [wikipedia.org]. At least try to come up with something real to be worried about.
      • In Germany, a phantom serial killer [time.com] was chased for years just because they found DNA samples.

        The Phantom's list of accomplices showed no pattern, ranging from Slovaks to Serbs, Albanians to Romanians, and her territory stretched throughout Germany and into Austria and France. No one had ever seen her, no security camera had ever captured her image. But when witnesses described her, they sometimes said she looked like a man.

        Yeah, sure as hell police knows that you can't trust DNA samples right? Which is why dozens of police officers searched for the phantom for years despite these obvious contradictions. Even a 100.000 Euro bounty was offered...

        It turned out to be some DNA pollution on the q-tips the police used: the DNA came from an employee of the cotton-wool tip manufacturer the police used. By the way, the q-tips (which are Germa

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I just noticed, it was covered on Slashdot [slashdot.org] as well:

          Cotton Swabs are the Prime Suspect In 8-Year Phantom Chase

          Posted by samzenpus on Thursday March 26, @12:10AM from the mom-always-said-to-wash-your-hands dept. Biotech

          matt4077 writes "For eight years, several hundred police officers across multiple European countries have been chasing a phantom woman whose DNA had been found in almost 20 crimes (including two murders) across central Europe. It now turns out that contaminated cotton swabs might be responsible for this highly unusual investigation. After being puzzled by the apparent randomness of the crimes, investigators noticed that all cotton swabs had been sourced from the same company. They also noted that the DNA was never found in crimes in Bavaria, a German state located at the center of the crimes' locations. It turns out that Bavaria buys its swabs from a different supplier." biotech slashdotted csi weird swabdotted science biotech story

        • Is this your example of someone getting falsely accused because of DNA evidence? Come on, she didn't even get arrested. If that is the worst that ever happens to anybody, then there is absolutely no reason to not make such a database.
          • Your argument was that "Investigators know that a hit in a DNA database isn't as good as other evidence". This was an example where exorbitant ressources were wasted although everything indicated that there went something wrong: no investigator ever thought about the possibility that eventually the DNA evidence might be void. So, your point is moot, investagtors obviously take a DNA sample for as the perfect evidence and stop every logical reasoning as soon as DNA evidence is present.

            Now, apart from that I

            • by mpe (36238)
              This was an example where exorbitant ressources were wasted although everything indicated that there went something wrong:

              Resources which could have been put to better use

              no investigator ever thought about the possibility that eventually the DNA evidence might be void. So, your point is moot, investagtors obviously take a DNA sample for as the perfect evidence and stop every logical reasoning as soon as DNA evidence is present.

              This implies that these investigators may be capable of making other funder
  • For example, This year, California began taking DNA upon arrest and expects to nearly double the growth rate of its database, to 390,000 profiles a year, up from 200,000. Until now, the federal government genetically tracked only convicts, however law enforcement officials are expanding their collection of DNA to include millions of people who have only been arrested or detained, but not yet convicted.

    Err... They have been collecting DNA from the Military for a while now...

    Just sayin

  • Scary stuff (Score:2, Funny)

    by PingXao (153057)

    If I'm arrested can I just show them my teabag to avoid having my DNA put in the system?

  • by bargainsale (1038112) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @03:49PM (#27629839)
    The UK has a huge DNA database including large numbers of minors and people subsequently found innocent.
    The much maligned European Court is protecting our liberties by declaring this illegal:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/04/law-genetic [guardian.co.uk]
    Such a shame that the mother of democracies should come to this.
    Be warned by our bad example
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by frup (998325)

      Fingerprints are taken on arrest, how is this so much worse?

      • It was on this site that numerous people stated that they were glad they lived in the US and not the police state known as the UK. Well now they have their own DNA database. Though, as you stated, finger prints were collected before and that's not much different from DNA.

        I do think the UK has some privacy issues but people in the US shouldn't laugh as they always end up following the UK's lead.

        First CCTV and now DNA databases. Combine with with the new US passports and it's not looking too good.
        • by mpe (36238)
          I do think the UK has some privacy issues but people in the US shouldn't laugh as they always end up following the UK's lead.

          So how long before filming police officers breaking the law is illegal in the US. As part of what Bruce Schneier has called "The War of Photographers".
          Also the move towards authoritarianism appears to be endemic throughout the "first world".
      • No different.
        The issue is whether they are kept on file when you are subsequently found innocent.
        Or do you suppose that the police never arrest the innocent?
        Perhaps in your country ...
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by passim (1437941)
          Huge difference! Fingerprints are a match or not, period. DNA matching requires experts, with their own agenda, and results are probabilities, not absolutes. Just a few months age a researcher in the US noticed two identical samples, one was from a black man, one from a white man. I know this is highly improbable - but it happened.
          • by Qzukk (229616)

            Fingerprints are a match or not, period

            Hardly. [livescience.com]

          • Fingerprint identification is a statistical match, not an identical match, especially the way it is implemented and searched. Skin is elastic and fingers are prone to injury, without a good degree of fuzziness in the search, you might not even match yourself. Both techniques are better at positive exclusion than positive identification.

          • by mpe (36238)
            Fingerprints are a match or not, period. DNA matching requires experts, with their own agenda, and results are probabilities, not absolutes.

            Actually much the same issues come up. Since a match is likely to be made with the prints of only some fingers and possibly only partial prints (even without knowing which fingers).

            Just a few months age a researcher in the US noticed two identical samples, one was from a black man, one from a white man.

            DNA testing uses bits of DNA, not the whole genome.

            I know th
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spire3661 (1038968)

        Fingerprints contain very minimal medical data about you. DNA is a CODE, its a huge repository of the information that makes you what you are physicaly. The two things are not analogous AT ALL.

        • by bit01 (644603)

          Fingerprints contain very minimal medical data about you. DNA is a CODE, its a huge repository of the information that makes you what you are physicaly. The two things are not analogous AT ALL.

          I wonder if fingerprint cards pick up sufficient skin cells to be DNA sequenced?

          ---

          An unobtrusive ad is a non-functional ad. It is a non-sustainable business model.

      • Your finger prints can not be used against your children and grand children. DNA can and will be used for whatever the market will bear.

        Once they have the database, health cost containment will be the excuse for accessing the information for use by non-judicial agencies and then later by non-governmental agencies. This is the ultimate privacy violation, using DNA to grant or withhold medical treatment will just be the beginning... how about getting a permit to start a family, in order to "clean up" the gen

        • by mpe (36238)
          Your finger prints can not be used against your children and grand children.

          As well as your parents, nieces, nephews, etc.

          Once they have the database, health cost containment will be the excuse for accessing the information for use by non-judicial agencies and then later by non-governmental agencies.

          In the case of the British Government it will likely be put on DVD or USB drive and "lost" before any such official handover...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlexBirch (1137019)
      UK the mother of democracies?
      Greece called from 500 BC and wanted that title back.
    • Mother of democracies? Hmmmmm. Perhaps I've been mistaken about England. I always thought England was a monarchy, that had spread an empire around the world by force of arms. Liberties, rights, and democratic freedoms have been wrested FROM that monarchy by force of arms. Maybe I should google the Magna Charta again, and see how that really went down. Yes, I see. The King decided that it would be a good thing for his subjects to exercise some freedoms, and to be secure in thier persons, so he unilat

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @03:52PM (#27629873)

    Unless it's for rape/murder, does anyone else find this extremely disturbing?

    And what if you're innocent, do they erase this data out of the system?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by aviators99 (895782)

      I find it *extremely* disturbing. DNA evidence should be used to exclude, and with consent. You should need probable cause to search someone's DNA for a match. The rights of the victim *are* more important the rights of the criminal, but the rights of the innocent are at least equivalent to the rights of the victim. This process causes a violation of the rights of millions of non-criminals (imo).

  • Unconstitutional (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @04:07PM (#27630011) Homepage Journal

    All records should be destroyed when the person is proven not guilty and released. WIth this ability they can just randomly detain people for questioning about some random crime that has no connection, get their DNA, and release them.

    For *innocent* people this is a clear violation of the 4th amendment. ( and perhaps others )

    • As always ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @04:27PM (#27630175)

      Fascism begins when the efficiency of the Government becomes more important than the Rights of the People.

    • For *innocent* people this is a clear violation of the 4th amendment. ( and perhaps others )

      I am saddened more by your comment than any other I've seen on /. in a long time. To find you moderated Insightful actually scares me. I'll paste the text of the Fourth Ammendment below and ask you to find the Exception clause. You know, that one that provides for contravention of the ammendment when the person is guilty. (I feel dirty having typed that last phrase).

      You do remember that a person is not guilty u

    • Oh boy, do you got a LOUSY understanding of the legal system. You are convicted when it is decided that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. NOBODY claims it is proven you are guilty except the prosecutor perhaps. It is presumed, beyond a reasonable doubt. There is a difference.

      Proven not guilty? Sorry, that only happens on tv. Not guilty really means, there is reasonable doubt. Although often it could also mean we don't doubt it, but we can't present the evidence that would nail you to the wall becau

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @04:10PM (#27630029)

    . . . a search for a female serial killer, whose victims were in Austria, France and Germany, was ended recently, when police discovered that the DNA of the suspect belonged to a women who packaged the cotton swabs used for testing:

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iEPt22F_xcWatGRrX5ludZOsSM5AD976HRM00

    So, how reliable will these databases be?

    It's a hoot and a half to read all the different crimes associated with this case, and think how all those police profilers were totally baffled by this killer.

    It won't be too funny, if a lab mix-up incriminates you.

    • So, what exactly are you saying? That techonology fouled up but the people using it realised it and did NOT arrest this woman whose only crime is to contaminate sterile materials (would you want her in charge of handling medical equipment used on you) and break down her door or start a case against her?

      The system, slowly, worked is what this story really is about.

  • Ethics and Errors (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Idiot with a gun (1081749) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @04:23PM (#27630141)
    Now I think we can all see (at least at an intellectual level) why they want to try this. In theory, at least it'll allow for faster and more accurate convictions.

    The problem is, the UK, who has the largest DNA Database in the world, is having some problems with accuracy [edri.org]. And the Germans spent 15 years hunting a serial killer who didn't even exit [independent.co.uk].

    Furthermore, juries are lead to believe that DNA is perfect evidence. While in theory the probability of two non-twins matching is very low, the issue is there is absolutely no way to prove how exactly that material got there. What if you were in a car, and two weeks later someone else is shot in it? Or worse, what if you and your girlfriend did some dirty business in the back? Your DNA will be in the back, and it's going to be hard fighting that off in court, because the Jury believes that DNA is full-proof evidence.
    • Wait, why are juries being lead to believe that DNA is perfect evidence? I truly want to know. If you say CSI watchers are lead to believe DNA is perfect evidence, you have a point. But if the prosecutor is leading them to believe this, or the defending attorney is not making it clear that DNA evidence is not 100% perfect, then there is a problem bigger than this database. The jury should not be lead to believe that DNA evidence is proof of anything.
  • If you were accused of a crime but your DNA record could clear you, would you want it on record? Many people have been cleared of crimes after having been found guilty, due to DNA evidence after the fact. In some of these cases wrongdoing by law enforcement was found and itself prosecuted or at least corrected.

    If someone committed a crime against you or yours, and having their DNA on record would help catch and prosecute them, would you want it done?

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little

    • Considering bad cops, good criminals, and other assorted people that would like to either frame you or draw attention away from them are hardly few and far between (especially in the future, once DNA evidence checking becomes more commonplace through databases such as this one), how long do you think it will be before this is a marvellous way to implicate innocents?
  • for this out of control data collection? because upholding the fourth amendment seems like an excellent economy measure.
  • by bmasel (129946) <(bmasel) (at) (tds.net)> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @11:49PM (#27633537) Journal

    I flew United, Milwaukee>Ohare>Austin for the Netroots Nation bloggers convention last July.

    Landing, 2 bags out of 66 passengers were not on the carousel, mine and agnostic's, another raucous Dailykos poster. We were told they'd been mistakenly sent to Scranton, would be delivered to out hotel around midnight. Actually arrived 4:00 the next afternoon, with 2 pieces of tape, one from TSA, and another from Homeland Security. Missing, my hairbrush, and Ms. Agnostic's scarf.

    As I connect the dots, when our dossiers were run, an alert HSA drone noticed empty datafields for our DNA. No longer empty.

    (I have history, going back to the Nixon enemies list.)

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