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DNA database in development in US

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:02 pm on 30 September, 2005.
Categories privacy and surveillance, democracy and the rule of law.
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Bruce Schneier cites a Washing Post article which reports that the US is considering proposals that would involve taking DNA from all those arrested and keeping it regardless of whether the person is then charged or convicted, though people not convicted will have a right to ask for their DNA to be removed after any action against them is dropped:

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.

And later:

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.

It seems the US is going down a similar route to the UK on the retention of DNA samples. After DNA fingerprinting was introduced, the government promised, and passed a law to the effect, that those who were not convicted or had charges dropped would have their DNA samples destroyed. In practice the samples were kept indefinitely. This practice was then legalised. The UK has since legislated to enable DNA to be taken and stored indefinitely for all arrestable offences (i.e. prior to charges being laid) and made all criminal offences arrestable. There is no mechanism for someone to have their DNA removed from the UK’s database.

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