DNA Retention should be Outlawed – Position Paper

Since Alec Jeffreys first proposed the idea of use of DNA, forensic scientists have been using DNA profiling technologies to help criminal justice agencies to link suspects with crime scenes. Some of the countries that have recognized the potential of DNA in fight against crime are Wales, England and the United States (Deray, 2011). As a result, these countries have expanded their DNA databases through DNA retention. These countries are rapidly expanding their DNA retention through the collection and indefinite storage of DNA profiles from arrestees. Although DNA retention can benefit criminal justice system in fight against crime, the process has created more problems than the good it has brought in fight against crime.

In discussion the position of the argument, the paper will employ scholarly sources in analysis and synthesis of information related with DNA retention.  However, to achieve good analysis, scholarly sources that include peer reviewed journal articles, books and credible websites will be used. Peer reviewed journal articles will be reviewed and retrieved from the Google scholar and the college library.  The credibility of sources will be evaluated by ensuring journal articles used are peer reviewed and that the websites are from credible sources such as educational institutions and relevant government websites.

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The proponents of DNA retention point to the crucial role that DNA profiling plays in linking criminals with the crime scene. DNA collected from arrestees can be used for identification and linkage of suspects to the crime scene. This allows the criminal justice personnel to arrest and prosecute suspects. When individuals are arrested, sample of their DNA is taken from their body tissue, which can be hair or sample of saliva. The DNA information from these body tissues can then be used in analysis of crime scene and linkage of suspects to the crime scenes. The use of DNA has also proven very helpful in exonerating some people from connection with certain criminal events. A good example of a case where DNA has been critical in exonerating individuals is the case of S. & Marper vs. The United Kingdom (Sarkar & Adshead, 2010).

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Despite the reported benefits behind the use of DNA in fight against crime, DNA retention has produced more problems than the solutions. One of the main reasons why DNA collection and retention should be outlawed is that it violates right to privacy. According to (Van Camp & Dierickx, 2008) the information collected from DNA samples from arrestees are sources of very important information. The DNA information collected is a source of very sensitive information about the genetic architecture of an individual and should be accorded the best possible safeguard. Since our genetic information is predictive of our future, they possess private information regarding the future of individuals. However, the collected DNA information can be misused in the analysis of individuals. A good example where DNA analysis may be misused by those who posses, is in determination whether certain individuals may be predisposed to certain disorders.

Moreover, the DNA retention opens up possibilities where genetic information obtained from DNA profiling may be exposed to third parties. Third parties such as insurance companies and employment agencies may access and use the DNA information, which opens up room for other vices such as discrimination against certain individual with specific genetic disorders. There is also an assertion that privacy concerns that arises from DNA retention can extend to information about one’s relatives (Deray, 2011). In addition to revealing information about the person whom the DNA was collected from, the DNA samples provide a powerful tool that can be used to study the family of an individual. Therefore, there is a concern on who must have a control of such information, since it may be employed to reveal information about relatives in addition to the person who provided the DNA sample. An example of this is the unauthorized use of National DNA database in the United Kingdom for research purposes without express permission from the individuals involved.

Though the issue of privacy remains the central focus of the possible use of DNA after its collection and retention, one more significant issue concerns ethics and social issues. According to (News-Medical.net, 2008) though the DNA database has been instrumental in the fight against crime, it has been used for other purposes other than against fight in crime. This has raised ethical and social concerns regarding these databases, especially as more and more countries continue to increase the numbers in their DNA databases. An example of unethical use of DNA database is the United Kingdom database which was launched in 1995 and has DNA information of over 4 million people. The database has been a subject of unauthorized use by third parties for purpose of studies without the consent of the owners of the DNA information.

Although there is need to expunge information from the DNA database once an individual has been absolved of all charges, there is increasing reluctance of the criminal justice department to expunge the information. Jeffreys, who is considered the founder of DNA fingerprinting, points that the modern DNA database in the United Kingdom and many other countries have deviated from the initial core fight against crime (News-Medical.net, 2008). According to Jeffreys, many of the DNA databases have DNA information from innocent people, yet it was created to hold DNA information of convicts only. In the United States, there is the provision to expunge data from DNA database. However, this varies from state to state, while some state laws demand DNA information to be expunged immediately a person is absolved of all charges, some require written request accompanied by court documents that shows that such an individual has been released. This reluctance to expunge such important information and the length it can take to expunge them has increase the amount of DNA information of innocent people in such databases.

In addition to ethical and privacy issues, the collection and indefinite storage of DNA has been can be used as a tool for targeted attacks and even stereotyping of certain individuals from certain ethnic backgrounds. According to (Sarkar & Adshead, 2010) the advances in genetic research has allowed the determination of the geographical location of the donor. The authors asserts this can be done using the individual DNA variants referred to as the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are found in mitochondrial DNA of the Y-chromosome. The availability of DNA information can thus be employed in determination of ethnicity of individuals in countries of national country of origin, which may fuel targeted attacks from the law enforcement authorities.

In as much as the local DNA databases are vulnerable to breach of privacy within individual countries, one should worry about the increasing cooperation between countries in security matters. After the September, 11 bombing in the United States, international cooperation efforts on security matter have increased. According to (McCartney, Wilson & Williams, 2011) there have been attempts to incorporate DNA profiling into policing of cross-border organized crime, terrorism and migration. Whereas these may have good intentions of curbing the increasing threat of terrorism, it opens up the databases to vulnerabilities of abuse and hacking. Although DNA profiling has been proven to be critical tool in fight against crime, DNA retention has more disadvantages than the advantages. DNA retention is a threat to individual privacy, can be a source of targeted attacks, may lead to abuse of personal information through unethical use in studies and could lead to unlawful sharing of personal information to third parties. DNA once collected for purposes of identification or when used to link suspects with crime scenes, must be expunged immediately. However, the increasing retention and lack of willingness to expunge such important personal information, continues to open up numerous possibilities of its abuse.

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