Forensic DNA Databases

Forensic DNA Databases

The use of forensic DNA databases by law enforcement around the globe is expanding at a rate that should be of great concern to civil libertarians. A crime prevention tool that was originally intended only to identify the most dangerous convicted felons on a case by case basis is now routinely being used for a multiplicity of purposes that pose significant privacy and civil rights concerns to every citizen. DNA profiling is far different from other methods of identification such as fingerprints. It is a window into an individual’s medical history and that of their entire family. Among the issues raised by the expanding use of DNA databanks that pose a very serious threat to global democracy and privacy are:  the permanent retention of DNA samples of individuals never convicted of a crime, DNA “dragnets” (collecting DNA from populations) devoid of individualized suspicion and weak safeguards for the information once it is collected, and DNA surveillance of families (familial DNA searches)


DNA and Innocence by Patricia Williams, JD.

Protecting Privacy and the Public – Limits on the Police Use of Bioidentifiers in Europe by George Annas, J.D., M.P.H.

A New Era of DNA Collections: At What Cost to Civil Liberties. T. Simoncelli & S. Krimsky

The Potential for Error in Forensic DNA Testing (and How That Complicates the Use of DNA Databases for Criminal Identification) by William C. Thompson

Forensic DNA Collection: A Citizen’s Guide to Your Rights


Legal Materials:

US Supreme Court Brief by Council for Responsible Genetics Challenging, on Racial Justice Grounds, Taking DNA Upon Arrest 2013


Legislative Materials:

Testimony on Familial DNA Searches Before US House of Representatives, April 2012 by Michael Risher ACLU

Press Conference on New York DNA Database Expansion, March 2012 by Jeremy Gruber

Massachusetts State Legislature Testimony, June 2011 by Jeremy Gruber

Massachusetts State Legislature Testimony, July 2009 by Jeremy Gruber

Massachusetts State Legislature Testimony, October 2009 by Jeremy Gruber


American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Forensic DNA Ethics, Penn Center for Bioethics

GeneWatch UK

Privacy International


© 2014 Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative