Police Want to Collect Abandoned DNA from Everyone

Police Want to Collect Abandoned DNA from Everyone

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 2, 2007 in DNA and the Law, Polls About DNA

british policeThis morning I spent a couple of hours at my local West London high road shopping and hanging out at the park with my kindergartener. Little did I know that the police could have been following my every move, collecting my fingerprints, DNA, footwear impressions, photographs, and other samples that I might have left behind on discarded drink bottles or candy wrappers. I say “could have been” because the scenario is unlikely. For now.

The UK Home Office is planning to give police the power to collect DNA samples off anything on the street without first arresting and bringing the suspect in to a police station. That means they can collect your DNA without your knowledge from any bodily samples you leave behind in public. Police in the US have been secretly collecting “abandoned” DNA from suspects for some time to convict criminals who might have never been caught otherwise.

Professor Elizabeth Joh of the University of California Law School says that police treat abandoned DNA the same as they would trash, which is searchable without a warrant. It’s your fault if you leave your DNA in a public place.

If we look at this kind of evidence as abandoned, then it really permits the police to collect DNA from anyone — not just cold case issues — from anyone at any time and really for no good reason or any reason at all.

In addition to collecting abandoned DNA, police will also be allowed to take DNA samples from people for violating minor laws, such as littering, speeding, or not using seatbelts. Yes, they’re waving that buccal brush at YOU!

The UK national DNA database is already the largest in the world with over 5% of the population registered. If these new regulations are approved, the volume of DNA samples will swell. The US is already experiencing a shortage of trained lab technicians to process a far fewer number of DNA samples. Is the UK prepared?

Do you think the police should be allowed to take DNA samples anywhere they want? Take the poll!

{democracy:6}

Tags: , , , , , , ,

(20 comments)


goldfade-divider-custom.gif

Related Posts:
Eye on DNA Headlines for 5 August 2007...
Eye on DNA Headlines (Formerly Links) for 4 August 2007...
5 Facts (and Caveats) About DNA Profiling...
Fake Names in the UK National DNA Database...
Want a job? Submit your DNA...
DNA Goes to the Tigers...
Eye on DNA Headlines for 28 August 2007 and a Poll on DNA Storage...

RSS feed

20 Comments

Comment by Krissy Poopyhands Subscribed to comments via email

You know, I really want to be horrified by this. It’s a huge invasion of privacy in a way, and catalouging the general public using any method is something that I’m vaguely against.

Realisically, what the fuck ever, dude. You want my stupid cells and mytochondria? Go for it. It’s you that has to fish my chewing gum out of the garbage can.

So much profiling stuff I want to be outraged over, and am, but it’s like a distant hum instead of an immediate sense of social actavism.

1. I don’t know that technology has ever really halted in the name of individual rights and 2. I’m lazy. Which you would know if you followed my DNA this morning. It was late. Does DNA show that you’re late?

Comment by Hsien

I remember one time I was talking to someone about Singapore and their strict laws. I said I didn’t really care since I wasn’t planning on breaking any of them anyway. The person was horrified at my lack of concern because even if I was still free to do what *I* wanted to do that didn’t mean I was really free. HUH?! Who was he to tell me whether I was free or not?

If there were a law passed against blogging about DNA, 99.999999 percent of the population would likely say “I don’t really care since I am not planning on blogging about DNA anyway.” They would not feel in the least deprived of a freedom however much their feeling would be mistaken. They would simply be abandoning others to their fates because they themselves had no direct self-interest. I suspect that this is what your interlocutor was getting at more or less.

If all laws and all associated procedures and punishments are inherently just, or should, as Paul the Christian Apostle claimed, be obeyed whether they are just or not, then half of your reasoning is unassailable. If data bases can be depended upon to be prefectly protected from misuse, in perpetuity, while in the hands of highly imperfect beings, such as we are, then the other half is unassailable. Inasmuch as one or the other premise fails, the data bases are potenitally a tremendously powerful tool for injustice, oppression, etc.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by Hsien

Ah, yes. I see what you’re saying. I do tend to think more on the positive side of things, but certainly there are always misuses and abuses!

 
 
 
 
Comment by Matthew MacManes Subscribed to comments via email

There is no ethical reason why this should not be done- but I’d worry that police would grow this database to some massive size- then use insufficient panel of markers (SNP’s or microsatellites) to be able to distinguish between each individual, thus increasing the likelihood of false positive identification.

Even with a huge set of markers, there are likely going to be individuals with identical genotypes. Instead of acting responsibly with this type of data, police might fudge this part of their investigation, like they have been known to do with other parts.

Comment by Hsien

That’s an excellent point, Matthew. Hopefully it’s possible for defense attorneys to demand a re-test. I believe police still have to offer more than just DNA evidence to convict someone in most cases. Although they can charge a DNA profile with a crime even if they don’t know who that profile belongs to!

 
 
Comment by jhay

My word, this is worse than those vague anti-terrorism laws.

Comment by Hsien

All in the name of protecting the public! :D

 
 
Comment by David Bradley

This quote

“That means they can collect your DNA without your knowledge from any bodily samples you leave behind in public.”

really gives me the creeps, not the invasion of privacy, but the fact that people are moving around towns and cities leaving bodily samples in their wake. Eewww.

db

Comment by Hsien

Yes, we are wallowing in bodily filth and not just your own. Yuck.

 
 

[...] of abandoned DNA, Belgian police salvaged a drink bottle that an eyewitness believes belonged to Madeleine McCann, [...]

 

[...] Henry Porter and a bunch of readers have commented in the Guardian on the proposal for British police to collect abandoned DNA without cause. [...]

 

[...] Police Want to Collect Abandoned DNA from Everyone by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei, Eye on DNA This morning I spent a couple of hours at my local West London high road shopping and hanging out at the park with my kindergartener. Little did I know that the police could have been following my every move, collecting my fingerprints, DNA, footwear impressions, photographs, and other samples that I might have left behind on discarded drink bottles or candy wrappers. I say “could have been” because the scenario is unlikely. For now. [...]

 

[...] week Hsien documented the recent efforts of UK police to make slelling a standard [...]

 

[...] criminals and assorted random people are the subject of contentious debate in New York State and Great Britain, a DNA database for tigers called the American Tiger Registry is also being proposed. Brian Werner [...]

 

[...] evidence was sent to the UK to be processed by the English crime labs and compared against their large UK DNA database. This was over three weeks ago. We are still waiting on [...]

 

[...] the UK National DNA Database by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei Posted August 27, 2007 in DNA and the Law The UK national DNA database is experiencing more bad press. Over 550,000 entries in the database are believed to be [...]

 

[...] appeal court judge in the UK, believes it is more fair to include everyone’s DNA in the national DNA database. This would include every resident along with every UK visitor and [...]

 
Comment by nona

If you’re not planning on doing a crime, why does it matter? Anything to put away the molesters, rapists, killers. Yay DNA!

Comment by mik

I suppose you wouldn’t mind having a 24/7 live video feed from your house to the police station then, if you’re not committing any crimes in there?

 
 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Search Eye on DNA


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


ARCHIVE


RANDOMIZED BLOGROLL


We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health
information:
verify here.
Eye on DNA is not a substitute for medical advice. Always ask your healthcare provider or genetic counselor for information specific to you.

Mendel's Garden

Healthcare 100 - eDrugSearch.com



View Hsien-Hsien Lei, PhD's profile on LinkedIn

Bloggers' Rights at EFF