Should law enforcement have a universal genetic forensic database?

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Image credit: Slate/Thinkstock

The idea of the government having access to every citizen’s DNA might sound like an Orwellian nightmare, but recent events suggest we’re not far from this being the ground truth. In April, police charged a suspect in the Golden State Killer case after linking crime scene DNA samples to a distant relative via the public GEDmatch database.

This poses a number of problems. Firstly, databases held by law enforcement inevitably end up showing the same biases present in all facets of policing—young, male, non-white populations are significantly over-represented.

That’s prompted researchers from Vanderbilt University to advocate for a universal genetic forensic database in a recent paper in the journal Science. The core of their argument is that law enforcement already has piecemeal and unregulated access to our genetic profiles, so it’s probably better to formalize and proactively control that access.

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Such a registry would remove the bias associated with current collection methods, they say, as well as preventing the exposure of sensitive genetic information not relevant to law enforcement.

Just because the authorities can probably already access our genetic information doesn’t mean we should make absolutely sure that they can. And just because the current system means they’re likely to ensnare certain populations more effectively doesn’t mean we should make everyone more vulnerable.

Read full, original post: Would a Universal Genetic Database Be a Crime-Solving Wonder, Or an Orwellian Nightmare?

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