FBI’s Unchecked DNA Collection: Crossing the Line of Privacy?

Posted in: Andy Oxide, MPN, News, Updates


FBI’s DNA Collection Raises Skepticism and Concerns

While the FBI celebrates its ever-expanding DNA database, a cloud of skepticism looms over the agency’s relentless pursuit of our genetic information.

With 21.7 million DNA profiles and counting, equivalent to approximately 7 percent of the U.S. population, the FBI’s quest for genetic dominance is raising significant eyebrows.

A Bottomless Budget for Genetic Ambitions

The FBI’s insatiable appetite for DNA data is made evident by its budget request for fiscal year 2024, which seeks an additional $53.1 million to supplement its already hefty $56.7 million budget.

The reasoning behind this staggering budget increase? The need to process the ever-increasing number of DNA samples collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This colossal growth in DNA collection is causing civil liberties advocates to sound the alarm.

Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), specializing in genetic privacy, expressed her skepticism.

“When we’re talking about rapid expansion like this, it’s getting us ever closer to a universal DNA database. I think the civil liberties implications here are significant.”

The FBI’s frenzied pursuit of genetic data can be attributed, in large part, to a rule change during the Trump administration.

This rule mandated the collection of DNA from migrants who found themselves arrested or detained by immigration authorities.

This controversial policy shift has added a significant chunk to the ever-expanding DNA database.

The Slippery DNA Slope

The FBI’s DNA collection venture traces back to 1990, culminating in the creation of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) in 1998, spanning all 50 states.

Initially, CODIS was intended for DNA from individuals convicted of crimes, samples from crime scenes, and unidentified remains.

Some would argue that the scope of this rather scary plot DNA collection has spiraled out of control.

Today, law enforcement agencies can harvest DNA samples from anyone sentenced for a felony charge.

In 28 states, individuals arrested for felonies, even if they haven’t been convicted, can also become subjects of DNA collection.

Shockingly, some law enforcement agencies are even obtaining DNA samples from unsuspecting individuals.

DNA Collection in the Digital Age

As technology advances, the FBI’s DNA ambitions seemingly grow unchecked.

The emergence of novel environmental DNA technology takes surveillance to an entirely new level.

This little-talked about innovation allows the collection of DNA from ambient sources like wastewater or air, making it possible to trace DNA back to individuals effortlessly.

Environmental DNA technology may sound like science fiction, but it’s already being embraced by the federal government.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is venturing into autonomously collected eDNA testing, allowing for environmental DNA testing without manual collection.

The Chinese Challenge

While the U.S. once held a larger DNA database than China, the tables are turning.

China launched an ambitious DNA collection program in 2017, aiming to capture between 5 and 10 percent of its male population’s DNA.

China has recently come under fire for abusing its DNA database for surveillance and political purposes, often with American technology and expertise.

The Pandora’s Box of a Universal DNA Database

For those skeptical of the government’s intentions, the idea of a universal DNA database is a nightmare scenario.

Eidelman stated, “A universal database really just would subvert our ideas of autonomy and freedom and the presumption of innocence.

It would be saying that it makes sense for the government to track us at any time based on our private information.”

DNA collection, in particular, poses unique privacy risks, as it can unveil sensitive health conditions, family ties, and ancestral history.

DNA Collection from Migrants: A Budgetary Challenge

The FBI’s escalating budget woes are a direct result of the massive influx of DNA samples from migrants arrested or detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

With the expiration of the Title 42 expulsions, the FBI foresees an even greater surge in DNA samples.

The situation has strained the FBI’s budget and personnel resources, resulting in a backlog of approximately 650,000 samples.

This backlog heightens the risk of arrestees and non-U.S. detainees being released before their identification through investigative leads.

The Evolution of DNA Analysis

DNA analysis has evolved from a cumbersome manual process that took months to a fully automated procedure.

Rapid DNA analysis allows for the creation of a DNA profile within one to two hours after a simple cheek swab, eliminating the need for a lab or human intervention.

The Great Divide: DNA vs. Fingerprints

Despite the FBI’s monumental DNA database, data reveals that less than 3 percent of the profiles have contributed to solving cases.

In stark contrast, fingerprints collected by the FBI have linked individuals to crimes at a rate of 12 percent annually, even when fingerprint technology was less advanced.

A Tug of War: Security vs. Freedom

As the FBI continues its relentless quest to amass a vast DNA database, the skepticism surrounding issues of privacy, surveillance, and civil liberties intensifies.

The fine line between a crime-solving tool and a privacy invasion becomes increasingly blurred, prompting a crucial debate about striking the right balance between security and personal freedom in the digital age.

Read the original story here:

The Intercept



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