Saturday, April 26, 2008

The total surveillance society is almost here:

Earlier this year it was reported that the Feds were going to take and keep on file DNA samples whenever a person was arrested* (even if never charged or convicted). Now, California has gone one step further. Even if the government doesn't have a DNA record for you, they can still have you on file, as it were:
California takes lead on DNA crime-fighting technique
The state will search its database for relatives of unidentified suspects in hopes of developing leads. Critics voice privacy concerns.

California will adopt the most aggressive approach in the nation to a controversial crime-fighting technique that uses DNA to try to identify elusive criminals through their relatives, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown announced Friday.

Employing what is known as familial or "partial match" searching, the policy is aimed at identifying a suspect through DNA collected at a crime scene by looking for potential relatives in the state's genetic database of about a million felons. Once a relative is identified, police can use that person as a lead to trace the suspect.

... Tania Simoncelli, science advisor to the American Civil Liberties Union, called Brown's decision a disappointment and said the organization is exploring its legality. The group has not decided whether to challenge the policy in court. "The fact that my brother committed a crime doesn't mean I should have to give up my privacy," she said.

At a recent FBI conference on familial searching, Jeffrey Rosen, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, warned: "I can guarantee if familial searching proceeds, it will create a political firestorm."


Once a relative has been identified, police can interview him or construct a family tree based on existing records. If a suspect is identified, police can obtain a warrant for his DNA, or even gather it surreptiously from an abandoned drink or cigarette butt. The suspect's DNA sample would then be compared to the crime scene sample and possibly used as evidence.
In the past, a "search" was of a physical area, requiring a warrant in many instances. The search would be justified based on certain facts and arguments presented to a judge. But there is no underlying logic in a DNA search. It's a search of every entry, without any narrowing criteria.

* - Feds to collect DNA from every person they arrest (AP)


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