What are some rights and issues involving genetic (DNA) profiling?
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a genetic instruction set used as the basic information value for living creatures. Every carbon-based lifeform on Earth has DNA, which acts as a blueprint on which cells are built. There is DNA in every cell in the human body. DNA is composed of nucleotides, which are made of nitrogen and sugar, and bases, which are four information nodes that can be read by RNA, a slightly different nucleic acid.
DNA Profiling (also Genetic Profiling or DNA/Genetic Typing) is a method of reading and translating the information coded on DNA strands and identifying which parts are unique to an individual. As a science, it was codified in 1985 by Dr. Alec Jeffreys, who found that strands of DNA contained repeating sequences that could be compared to find differences. Over time, as more parts of DNA became known and understood, DNA profiling became one of the most powerful tools in criminal investigations, offering a more foolproof method of identification.
Today, the U.S. Government operates the largest DNA database in the world, with over nine million distinct records. They are able to match samples with their existing records with a very low error rate.
In recent years, many different arguments for and against DNA profiling have risen, often in response to crimes and courtroom evidence. For example, while it is possible to base blood relationship on DNA, it is impossible to prove exact relation, and there is also the possibility of Chimeras, or individuals possessing two differing sets of genes. DNA evidence is still a useful tool, but it is becoming easier to falsify DNA at a crime scene, and as information becomes public knowledge, criminals are able to contaminate crime scenes to slow investigation.
One of the most common complaints about DNA profiling is method of collection; people leave genetic material around all the time: in garbage, on cigarettes, in used tissues, and there is no prohibition on law enforcement collecting, analyzing, and storing this genetic information. Because of this, many people are on record without knowing it, and those records could be used to place them at crime scenes in the future, or bring them into investigations of which they had no knowledge. Many people value their privacy and do not want this information on record, for fear that it could be used for tracking purposes, or stolen by private individuals for other reasons.
Another strong complaint about DNA profiling is that since DNA contains information about ethnicity and pre-existing medical conditions, if this information is made available under Fair Use, it could be used for discriminatory purposes.
As technology for DNA profiling grows in scope and ability, more issues like this will arise. The American Civil Liberties Union represent cases where individuals feel their privacy has been violated. Laws regarding how DNA databases impact privacy are still being drafted.