The New York Times has an interesting story about the vast expansion of DNA collection by law enforcement officials across the nation. (Jeffrey Rosen recently had an excellent article, relevant to this discussion, about increasing pressure for the expansion of “familial searches” of DNA databases. Also, the Los Angeles Times in January had an interesting story about a fight between the Los Angeles Police Department and the police union over the collection of officers’ genetic data. The opinions stated by the police union are similar to arguments (pdf) that have been consistently made by civil liberty groups when discussing collection of DNA from individuals.)
Law enforcement officials are vastly expanding their collection of DNA to include millions more people who have 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.
Until now, the federal government genetically tracked only convicts. But starting this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial and will collect DNA from detained immigrants — the vanguard of a growing class of genetic registrants.
The F.B.I., with a DNA database of 6.7 million profiles, expects to accelerate its growth rate from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million by 2012 — a 17-fold increase. F.B.I. officials say they expect DNA processing backlogs — which now stand at more than 500,000 cases — to increase. […]
But criminal justice experts cite Fourth Amendment privacy concerns and worry that the nation is becoming a genetic surveillance society. […]
Courts have generally upheld laws authorizing compulsory collection of DNA from convicts and ex-convicts under supervised release, on the grounds that criminal acts diminish privacy rights.
DNA extraction upon arrest potentially erodes that argument, a recent Congressional study found. “Courts have not fully considered legal implications of recent extensions of DNA-collection to people whom the government has arrested but not tried or convicted,” the report said.