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California Expands DNA Identification Policies

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the family-ties dept.

Privacy 42

The Los Angeles Times is reporting on a new California policy to match the DNA of suspected criminals to the criminal's family members in order to use them as investigative leads. Use of partial DNA matching is drawing fire over privacy concerns from citizens and law experts. FBI officials are hesitating as well, though their concern is that the courts will not accept such techniques. Quoting: "The policy, which takes effect immediately, is designed to work like this: The state's crime lab will tell police about DNA profiles that come up during routine searches of California's offender database and closely resemble, but do not match, the DNA left at a crime scene. (Previously, the state refused to tell police about these partial matches.) When such partial matches do not surface or fail to produce a lead, a more customized familial search can be done in which computer software scans the database proactively for possible relatives. The software measures the chance of two people being related based on the rarity of the markers they share."

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It's a good idea (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23215604)

But not as good as goatse [goatse.ch] .

Full bore.. (5, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#23215668)

They might as well mandate collection of DNA from everyone at birth. With the web of connections between people chances are at least one of your relatives will have their DNA on file which under this program will lead to you. This is the "slippery slope" part of it, if they went full bore and demanded DNA from everyone there would be figurative riots in the streets but a little step at a time...

At least that would be fair (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23216326)

As it is, the current system is grossly unfair to those related to people who have been sampled.

If everyone is sampled at least it's fair.

Grossly anti-civil-liberties, but fair.

Re:At least that would be fair (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23217476)

Simply because something is 'fair' (meaning equally applied to everyone) doesn't make it better. I'd rather no ones rights were violated, but if that's impossible then I'd prefer as few peoples rights be violated as possible. I'd never want to have everyones rights violated if that could be avoided just for the sake of being 'fair'. Spreading around misery and wrong just for the sake of 'fairness' is crazy. All that does is create more misery and wrong in the world when there could have been less. It's better for us to stand up to nonsense practices such as mentioned in TFA and oppose them, rather than accede to policies that we don't want so long as they are 'fair'. I don't care how 'fairly' applied wrong headed policies are, they are still wrong and must be opposed based upon the fact that they are wrong.

Satire filter (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23227924)

Apparently posting to Slashdot removes all visible indications of deadpan satire.

Next time, I'll be sure to add <satire></satire> as needed.

Fairly violating our civil liberties? No thanks. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23220832)

If taking DNA samples from a few people is bad, then taking samples from everyone - even in the interests of fairness - is worse.

Re:Full bore.. (0)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23216522)

They might as well mandate collection of DNA from everyone at birth.
I'd rather have that happen than what they're proposing.

The change will lead to more convictions.
The problem is that these convictions will not be equally distributed across the population.

Re:Full bore.. (2, Insightful)

wasted (94866) | more than 6 years ago | (#23217422)

They might as well mandate collection of DNA from everyone at birth.

I'd rather have that happen than what they're proposing.

The change will lead to more convictions.
Unless you are a celebrity, like a former pro running back.

The problem is that these convictions will not be equally distributed across the population.
Criminals aren't equally distributed across the population, either.

Re:Full bore... Into Oblivion (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23216942)

I am very sure this will come to be. With identification as powerful as DNA, the government must salivate at the opportunities it will create to control a population.

It didn't used to be like this. Besides the obvious point of DNA analysis not being practical, we had leaders with a little more ethics, a little more respect for the Constitution, and a little more accountability.

But as crime became more of a threat, and politicians wanted more power, we now have DNA databases, printers that encode unique signatures into everything they print, and with the wholesale monitoring of the internet, a way to track whoever they want.

On the bright side, we all get ringside seats to the orchestrated fall of democracy and what used to be the American way of life.

And the sad thing is that citizens let it happen and even encouraged it to happen because they were uneducated and easily swayed by fear-mongering stooges.

Re:Full bore... Into Oblivion (2, Interesting)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23217304)

I am very sure this will come to be. With identification as powerful as DNA, the government must salivate at the opportunities it will create to control a population.
It didn't used to be like this. Besides the obvious point of DNA analysis not being practical, we had leaders with a little more ethics, a little more respect for the Constitution, and a little more accountability.
But as crime became more of a threat, and politicians wanted more power, we now have DNA databases, printers that encode unique signatures into everything they print, and with the wholesale monitoring of the internet, a way to track whoever they want.


Well, this was the result of a referendum, so I think the "government trying to control us" is a little innacurate. It would have been more appropriate to say that the sheeps are looking forward for the opportunity to sell more of their rights to broaden the illusion of safety.

I do worry about what will happen when genomic sequencing and analysis becomes so cheap and easy that it will be standard practice to fully sequence your genome if and when you are arrested or apply for a job. DNA fingerprinting, while bad enough, does not tell the government what genes you have. If and when they get that capability, you can bet someone is going to find a set of genes that are correlated with criminal behavior.

It will be very controversial and all of course, but as long as that process doesn't highlight too many people, the public will be okay with treating those individuals as destined to be criminals. I wonder if we'll have them electronically monitored or maybe wear an identifying badge?

And so it continues... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23215744)

A little background: In November 2004, a frightened California public passed proposition 69 [smartvoter.org] , which allowed the state to maintain a DNA database of its citizens. The DNA samples are taken when you are arrested at the booking along with fingerprints and mug shots.

This means that you don't ever have to be convicted- hell, you don't even have to be charged- to have your DNA added to this database. People who are wrongly accused do NOT automatically have their DNA expunged from the database.

When do the DNA-sequence-hashed social security numbers come out again?

Re:And so it continues... (2, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219766)

exactly the problem. They're getting to the point they "contrive" reasons to pull your DNA. It's still seen as a "silver bullet" in many courts that the tests can't be close or wrong. Minorities should worry because next time they get a "D.W.B" it may get them in the database. Combine with biased, loose-lipped detectives just being in the database is enough to damage a reputation or in some places pre-convict you in the newspapers.

Hard to say... (1)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 6 years ago | (#23215760)

Is this really anything more than a 21st century equivalent of getting a fingerprint match and then using government records to search for family connections (or even just last names)?

I'd say it's even a fuzzier link because you could get matches from cousins who don't even really know you.

Re:Hard to say... (3, Insightful)

sirket (60694) | more than 6 years ago | (#23215864)

What the hell do fingerprints have to do with this? You can't find a persons relatives via a finger print. You can't say "hey- think fingerprints looks almost like this other guys, so it much be a relatives!"

With DNA, you're using a DNA sample from a crime scene and matching it to a known criminals DNA to find a relative.

What you're suggesting is using a fingerprint from a crime scene, matching it to a known criminal, and then using that to find the persons relatives. That doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. If the fingerprint matches, you know your criminal. If it doesn't, you've got to keep investigating. Who they're related to isn't exactly important.

In this case we're talking about casting suspicion over people simply because their DNA is close to someone else's- that's frightening.

Re:Hard to say... (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 6 years ago | (#23223140)

Now add to that the real danger of DNA being a silver bullet. How many hairs have you lost, do you know where they have all ended up? Have you used tissues in a public space and carelessly failed to keep track of the discard. Next time you spit consider where it might end up.

Now as it turns out suspicion does not fall on family members with near matches but on untested family members. So if you are the one family member with a near match, they do not pursue you but they pursue all your untested relatives who now must prove their innocence.

Re:Hard to say... (4, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23215996)

What they're doing here is when they have only DNA evidence, and can find a close match, then the basic idea is that they want to make any of those close matches "suspects". Not suspect of committing the crime, but suspect of being related to the actual perp.

How would you like a detective knocking on your door and wanting to discuss your immediate relatives, looking for leads on a case he's working on?

"we have reason to believe that one of your relatives committed a crime, care to answer a few questions?"

Now lets say it was a really close match and now they would like to DNA test your kid to see if he's a 100% match? (with no other evidence than this close match) If you allow that, then where do we draw the line? Not so close? Can we DNA test all your cousins? We're sure one of them's the one we're looking for!

easy to see... (2, Interesting)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#23217540)

This is more than a 21st century equivalent of fingerprint matching because DNA contains so much more information than fingerprints.

Law enforcement will try to use a familial DNA match found at a crime scene as probable cause for a search warrant. It will happen. There are several scenarios. Imagine you have two brothers and you live in the same town, and brother 1 has been convicted of armed robbery. DNA at the crime scene of another robbery with a similar location to brother 1's first armed robbery is found that has a familial match to his DNA. A DA or detective would love to be able to use that as probable cause for a search warrant of your house and brother 2's house as well. Whether it would be granted depends on many factors. If you and brother 2 were suspected of being accomplices in the first armed robbery (say, letting him keep money, etc at your house) but never charged b/c of lack of evidence, you can be sure that would increase the chance of the warrant being granted.

The potential for abuse of this is off the chart.

Another question, how reliable are these markers for familial relationships in DNA anyway? Who is making sure that these DNA 'markers' are viable? Seems like the public is willing to swallow anything that involves DNA when it comes to law enforcement.

Re:easy to see... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219396)

A DA or detective would love to be able to use that as probable cause for a search warrant of your house and brother 2's house as well.

If my county's DA did not try for such search warrants, then he would be negligent in his duties.

Re:easy to see... (3, Informative)

sedmonds (94908) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219552)

Except that he does not have probable cause to believe that both warrants would yield results. This is comparable to getting search warrants for everyone in the county named John, if one masked bandit in a robbery is referred to by another as "John".

Re:easy to see... (1)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219762)

well put, the parent to your post just doesn't get the idea of civil rights being a GOOD thing....

Re:easy to see... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23220408)

Except that he does not have probable cause to believe that both warrants would yield results. This is comparable to getting search warrants for everyone in the county named John, if one masked bandit in a robbery is referred to by another as "John".

Hogwash.

Since I have a very common name, and have often had phone calls (including from police!) from people looking for different people with my same name, I am acutely aware of this problem. Unfortunately for your argument, this is referring to familial DNA found at a crime scene, not the absurdly broad "same given name".

Re:easy to see... (1)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 6 years ago | (#23222604)

See my comment at: http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=536026&cid=23221698 [slashdot.org] .
In some cases, it may actually be as absurdly broad as "same given name". No one really knows.

Re:easy to see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23224018)

I read your post.

Apart from you incorrect use of some vocabulary, I see nothing in your post worth the mod it got. You certainly didn't suggest anything that is outside the realm of known issues, your attempt to claim otherwise notwithstanding.

Your post was vacuous and useless.

Re:easy to see... (1)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#23229478)

your ideas represent the mindless thinking that would be perfect for a citizen of a totalitarian regime. why don't you move to North Korea? No one questions the government or law enforcement policies....bon voyage

cousins? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23221032)

I'd say it's even a fuzzier link because you could get matches from cousins who don't even really know you.
I'd get a match from my Father who doesn't even really know me

Hmmm... Perhaps there's a bright side (for some)? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23215890)

If they ever bring this to Ontario, anyone adopted is on safe ground! The records are illegal to release, even to the point of denying access to updated medical information. I can't be fingered this way, since it's illegal for the government to tell me who my adopted parents are, therefore, it's illegal to use the information in a court case.

I never thought there'd be a bright side to that...

Anything the government has on record is a threat (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#23217164)

to your personal freedom because regardless of what a law says today it can become a whole different thing tomorrow. Suddenly all that information on you that was supposed secure is now available to parties who have a need to know, all in the vein of "its for the children", "terrorist are lurking", "for increased safety"... and so on.

Never believe anything in the government vaults is safe because leaders change and so do laws

Slippery slope to Sippenhaft and beyond (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23217910)

I wanted to say exactly the same. Even if you foolishly trust your authorities not to abuse your DNA data now - remember that it will persist for the rest of your lifetime. And the lifetime of your children, and your children's children...

Can you be sure that in all this time there won't be another government where, say, Sippenhaft [wikipedia.org] will be considered a legitimate tool again? Or, with all your citizen's DNA in a database it'll be easier than ever before to screen for certain 'types'. NO political power can permanently resist the temptation to expand the (ab)use of this data.

Consider how much information - and thus power - is associated with your DNA. It's not just an account number or a name on a birth certificate, it's what you are, your most personal biological information.

Re:Hmmm... Perhaps there's a bright side (for some (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23222366)

But why would the goverment need to tell you who your parents were? They could just say that they found that the dna was a close match to your father "John Doe." Afterword they found you to be a 100% match and that you are clearly guilty. I don't see why a Judge wouldn't grant a warrent for your DNA, if there over a 50% chance of your DNA matching. Since this would only be discovery evidence ei used to find you not prove that you did it, I don't know it would even need to brought up during the trail.

Re:Hmmm... Perhaps there's a bright side (for some (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23240844)

since it's illegal for the government to tell me who my adopted parents are

??? Don't you know who your adopted parents are? After all, they adopted you, so you probably lived with them for a while at least. Maybe you meant biological parents?

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You can have my DNA (3, Insightful)

mfnickster (182520) | more than 6 years ago | (#23216122)

"You can have my DNA when you extract it from my cold, dead hand!"

Oh, wait...

Re:You can have my DNA (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218200)

The trouble is, I already have your DNA...or I might. It's not like you don't leave it everywhere you go...

Re:You can have my DNA (2, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#23223372)

The most distressing part of all this is that the citizens of the United States have come to love liberty so little that when a agent of the state wants to fuck them with a sample swab, wants to remove a part of their living body, they won't fight.

Can you imaging the response of Thomas Jefferson or George Washington to the government demanding tributes of flesh from citizens?

The sovereignty of the government ends at my skin. You want a DNA sample? Get a warrant and see what you dead skin you can find in my bed (the samples with the Y chromosome are mine, guys), or arrest me and give me a bucket toilet and pull a sample out of my shit. But I will not voluntarily give up even a microgram of living flesh to the government. Yes, they'll probably get able to get a lot of samples out of my blood on the floor after they beat me, but I'll mix as much of theirs with it as I can. I will not let the government inside my body, and this is a bright and clear line I will fight for.

I'm not a Christian, but I always liked Jesus's line about the separation of church and state: render onto Caesar what is Caesar's, and onto God what is God's. My body does not belong to Caesar, and I will render no part of it onto him.

So, yes, if it comes to that: you can have my DNA when you extract it from my cold dead hand.

Communism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23216220)

Welcome to California, comrade...

Re:Communism? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23217100)

Would have been better with a 1984 reference. I mean, this doesn't really have anything to do with communism, it's big brother.

Re:Communism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23217376)

Historically speaking, communist states have all been big brother police states. So, I don't think the reference is too far off.

Re:Communism? (2, Insightful)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219494)

Historically speaking, communist states have all been big brother police states. So, I don't think the reference is too far off.
So were fascist states and any other form of authoritarianism. It is the authoritarianism that leads to be big brother police state. Now, supposed democratic-republics (USA and UK) are running lemming-like into big brother police states.

What They'll Find, What They'll Do (2, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 6 years ago | (#23217892)

Some of the "family" members won't be. They'll uncover the fact that there is no biological link to one or the other parent and/or siblings, even when divorce and remarriage is not involved. They'll find that some births occur outside the relationship otherwise thought to be what's general considered "legitimate". Bringing this fact to light will be a violation of the privacy of the suspect and/or family members, particularly since this fact will have nothing to do with the investigation. In order to pursue the case based on this evidence, they'll have to conduct this violation. If not prevented, it will provide precedent for similar violations that are not directly related to otherwise valid investigations.

Worse still is when the fact of "legitimacy" is then used to judge the person(s) in entirely separate venues, such as job related security background checks conducted on the otherwise innocent family members. Although society may change and the "legitimacy" question cease to matter as much as it used to, others will hang on longer and tighter, such as in this example, where the employers will view it more negatively than the population because they'll be looking for the potential problems, and pursue them on this basis "just in case".

Re:What They'll Find, What They'll Do (1)

CMF Risk (833574) | more than 6 years ago | (#23227516)

Worse still is when the fact of "legitimacy" is then used to judge the person(s) in entirely separate venues, such as job related security background checks conducted on the otherwise innocent family members. Although society may change and the "legitimacy" question cease to matter as much as it used to, others will hang on longer and tighter, such as in this example, where the employers will view it more negatively than the population because they'll be looking for the potential problems, and pursue them on this basis "just in case".
How about when a particularly horrible crime goes unsolved, yet the authorities say it was commited by someone with "similar" DNA to you/your family?

Im sure that will go over well with potential employers, the public, significant others, or anyone else.

Are we overlooking something here? (2, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218144)

OK, why does this sound like genetic profiling to find 'people with criminal genes' to me?

Flawed assumption in all this...'rarity' (4, Insightful)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 6 years ago | (#23221698)

My concern is localized optima in what the public thinks of as nearly 'random' data. Consider a community of 20-40 thousand that is economically and culturally semi-isolated. Like a farming town - or a city ghetto. Yes, a ghetto in the middle of a city of millions can be semi-isolated genetically. How many people who can afford to live elsewhere will go to the poorest part of town to find a mate? How many people living there are able to get their "genes" out of the ghetto? After 100 years, just how 'rare' are the genetic markers found inside that community? (Some of these places have been that way since the civil war!)
Any sort of study to find the answer would have very loud political repercussions, thus is unlikely to ever be done (or been done - we'dve heard about it).
The odds may be millions when compared to the entire polpulation of a region, but can not be known without mapping the genetic clustering. The numbers may be much, much lower inside genetic clusters.
Without knowing how to account for genetic clustering and localized optima, the actual rarity of genetic markers in a specific case can not be known. And the difference will always favor the police by producing false positives.
After a few years of collecting DNA from the poorest, the police may be able to link any crime with someone in that community if 'familial' relationships are used as indicators. I've never seen *any* comment in articles about forensic DNA testing that discusses this. Which is why, if on a jury, I will almost certainly disregard any DNA evidence.
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