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Civil libertarians criticize DNA databases

Published: Thursday October 26, 2006

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Advocates for civil freedoms are expressing their concerns with the recent rise of DNA databases, National Journal's "Technology Daily" reports.

Speaking at a Washington, D.C. event hosted by the ACLU, "civil libertarians on Wednesday cited the many perceived risks of DNA databases," writes Winter Casey.

"An over-reliance on these databases could undermine criminal justice," said an ACLU science adviser, who warned of "possible misuses of data related to race or sexual orientation" and called for "a 'moratorium of databases' until more is known."

Casey wrote that a UC-Irvine professor "said he is concerned that criminals will develop increasingly sophisticated ways to outsmart law enforcement," and that "any databases should be more open to the public."

Excerpts from the subscription-only article follow...


An ACLU statement said Congress and some state legislators recently have voted to allow for the permanent retention of DNA following arrests. Simoncelli said the move to include information on innocent people in the databases is worrisome and should be opposed. DNA samples should be destroyed once investigations are over, she added.

According to the President's DNA Initiative, all states have provisions that allow for the collection of DNA profiles from offenders convicted of particular crimes. Currently, Simoncelli said 44 states require samples from all adults convicted of felonies.

The success of a government software program that operates multiple databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders "is demonstrated by the thousands of matches that have linked serial cases to each other," the Web site for the president's initiative said.

However, Helen Wallace, the deputy director of Genewatch UK, said the chances of solving a crime with a database have not significantly improved in recent years. On Monday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly called for the country's national DNA database to be expanded to include every citizen.