Tag Archives: population-wide database

The Population-wide DNA Database

The August ABA Journal landed in my mailbox. Usually, I ask reporters to check the wording with me before quoting me, but I neglected to do so some weeks ago, when Mark Walsh asked me about DNA databases in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Maryland v. King. Mr. Walsh’s article quotes me as follows: “Is the point of arrest the sensible place to draw the line? I can imagine a system in which you take a sample from everyone. Newborns already have a heel prick taken for certain genetic testing. At the same time you could take a DNA sample. Not that you expect a newborn to commit a crime, but 20 years later the sample is there in the database.”

Oops! I said that? I meant to say this: “Is the point of arrest the sensible place to draw the line? I can imagine a system in which you take a sample from everyone. Newborns already have a heel prick taken for certain genetic testing. Along with the genetic tests of the DNA, you could obtain a DNA profile. Not that you expect a newborn to commit a crime, but 20 years later the profile is there in the database.” The critical difference: “profile,” not “sample.”

For more on creating a population-wide database with police never touching your DNA, see this FSSL blog posting.