Feds, States Expanding Citizen DNA Collections

Monday, 20 Apr 2009 08:03 AM

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US federal and state law enforcement agencies are dramatically expanding their collection of DNA, including in their databases not only people convicted of crimes but also those simply arrested or detained, The New York Times reported.

The newspaper said the shift was raising concerns about the privacy of petty offenders and people who are presumed innocent.

Until now, the US government collected DNA samples from only convicts, the report said.

But starting this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial as well as from detained immigrants.

The FBI, which already has a database of 6.7 million DNA profiles, expects to accelerate its growth rate from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million by 2012 - a 17-fold increase, the paper noted.

Because of this and similar efforts undertaken locally, US criminal justice experts worry that the nation is becoming a genetic surveillance society, The Times noted.

Minors are now required to provide DNA samples in 35 states upon conviction, and in some states upon arrest, the report said.

Sixteen states now take DNA from some who have been found guilty of misdemeanors.

"What we object to -- and what the Constitution prohibits -- is the indiscriminate taking of DNA for things like writing an insufficient funds check, shoplifting, drug convictions," The Times quoted Michael Risher, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, as saying.

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 from 200,000, according to the paper.

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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