The DNA Debate Continues

Affiliate: ACLU of Utah
August 5, 1999 12:00 am

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard wants to run a DNA profile on everyone arrested and booked into the new county jail when it opens later this year, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported today.

Authorities would take two drops of blood, then create, log and store the profile in a database, which would be used to cross-reference with DNA samples collected from crime scenes.

But many people believe issues of privacy and due process must be addressed before sampling becomes part of the arrest procedure.

“Using [DNA] in this way violates the principle of citizens being innocent until proven guilty. We are equating arrest with guilt,” said Carol Gnade, Executive Director of the Utah affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

News outlets also noted that privacy advocates were especially worried that the potential stockpiling of genetic information could endanger individual freedoms.

“There are lots of things we could do to solve more crimes,” Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the ACLU told in a recent interview. “We could allow police officers to go house to house and go through all of our belongings without a warrant. But is that a society we want to live in?”

Unlike fingerprints, which don’t carry intimate information, DNA contains data markers for up to 4,000 diseases. Critics told that by forcibly collecting genetic samples, the government is violating the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Civil liberties advocates are also alarmed about who exactly is entitled to genetic information and what security measures exist to counter theft. These issues recently came into play in Texas, where an ATM machine employs biometrics and scans the iris to discern the identity of the consumer.

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