Privacy Concerns Regarding DNA Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

DNA Fingerprinting

The subject of DNA fingerprinting has become a prominent issue on several fronts. The applicable paradigms involved include law enforcement, privacy concerns and immigration, just to name a few. A few questions and concerns about DNA will be included in this repot including what precisely DNA fingerprinting is, how it is done, the step-by-step methods of fingerprinting, how DNA is compared on an electrophoresis (EPG), what precisely EPG is, whether the author of this report agrees with DNA fingerprinting everyone for medical reasons, why DNA is considered potential evidence in a court of law and whether the author of this report aggress with the government wanting to DNA-fingerprint everyone so that they can learn about disease propensity and other pieces of information. While DNA fingerprinting has and will continue to render a large amount of benefit, the privacy and other rights of people to be fingerprinted are a valid concern.


DNA fingerprinting, as many are aware of, is the ability to tie a piece of DNA on a hair, in blood or some other bodily fluid or matter to a person. The most common and well-known applications for DNA is to establish paternity, to tie a person to a crime or crime scene and to screen for diseases and genetic traits such as cancer risk, racial characteristics and so forth. DNA fingerprinting was developed by Alec Jeffreys in 1985. DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid. Except with identical twins, everyone's DNA is going to be different as the chances of someone having the same DNA profile is next to zero (Funk & Wagnalls). The three parts to a DNA test is the collection of the sample, the processing of the sample and the interpretation of the results. DNA can be extracted from a range of biological materials such as saliva, blood, semen, hair, muscle tissue, dandruff and even fingerprints (Butler). Evidence must be collected and preserved prior to the testing and it can literally be smaller than what the naked eye can see. The process of analyzing the DNA can take on several forms but there is usually a consistency to it. The material is collected and then process in a centrifuge. There is a transfer to another tube and then there is another centrifuge treatment. After all of this, the PCR DNA test is then performed (Butler). PCR DNA collection and analysis has been both standard and digital, both now and in the past (Dietrich). Gel electrophoresis, commonly referred to as EPG, is used to facilitate DNA separation so that it can be analyzed (Ghanim et al.). EPG is specifically designed as a way to separate DNA, RNA and proteins at the molecular level (Ai).

The government requiring DNA profiles for people across the nation may sound good on its face but it brings up a lot of privacy and other concerns. Many hold that their body is their own (Kaye). This can change quite easily if someone is under criminal or similar suspicion. However, there is also the prospect of DNA being "harvested" via surreptitious means (Scherr). The same thing can happen if the paternity of a child is in question and the prospective father refuses to voluntarily provide a sample. It would be useful to screen for diseases that are present or could be present. It could also be helpful in figuring out why racial disparities exist in terms of why minorities get sick more often than non-minorities (Gorman). The author of this report would not consent to the government asking for it. If the author of this report wants to know the details, the author will go to a private doctor and get (and keep) the information that way. It is not the government's concern and they do not have a "need to know" as the author Is not a criminal or the subject of a paternity/maternity action.

That all being said, DNA is considered evidence in a court of law because it can establish some facts or at least advised assumptions about what happened at a crime scene. It can establish whether there was sexual contact, whether someone was present at a crime scene, whether a potential criminal suffered from wounds rendered by a victim though scratching fingernails or something similar and so on. DNA works as a way to assert or prove all of this because the odds of someone having the same DNA as someone else is so very small that it excludes everyone else except identical twins if they exist. In addition and also as noted before, this is a situation where one's body is not one's own given that the government will issue a warrant or other order to have the DNA collected and analyzed. There are limitations to what it can prove, though. It can establish that someone was there or that sexual activity occurred. However, neither of those prove a crime occurred as the timing of the presence may be in question or the motive behind the action (e.g. rape vs. consensual sex) may also be up for debate or consideration (Aarli).

When it comes to a national database where everyone is fingerprinted, that is not going to happen nor should it happen. However, there are certain groups and classificaitons of people that should indeed get the DNA fingerprinting for national security, law enforcement and similar purposes. These groups of people should include anybody entering the United States that is here temporarily and/or on a visa. The only exclusions to this would be tourists but that might need to be adjusted if such a waiver is abused. Another group that should be DNA-fingerprinted across the board is anyone guilty of something other than a minor crime. However, people that commit more than a couple of misdemeanors or any single felony should have their DNA on file as their chance of recidivism is much higher and they have lost the right to say that they deserve their medical/DNA privacy as they have violated the rights, health or property of others.

There reason why DNA fingerprinting should not be done en masse for everyone. First, law-abiding citizens should benefit from their good behavior and benevolence towards society. It could be just like probation/parole searches whereby non-offenders require probable cause or a warrant to have their bodies or car searched without consent but people on parole or probation surrender that right (at least temporarily) due to their prior offending. Second, there is going to be a propensity for people to abuse access to such information so limiting the depth and breadth of who that information is collected for and why is a good idea. Databases can be hacked, people can get nosy about celebrities in the database and so forth.

Rather the government forcibly collecting DNA from all people regardless of lack of need or criminal behavior, people should have the chance and opportunity to get the DNA-related information and history from a private institution for their own personal and private use. The government should not intercede or be involved in any way unless there is a public or national security interest involved. Tracking the DNA and fingerprints of a known or suspected terrorist that may or may not be in the United States is one thing. Tracking someone with a pervasive criminal history is another. However, regular "Joe six-pack" that is minding his own business should be left alone. Businesses and government agencies can suggest screening for diseases and so forth. However, that information should not be broadcast or disseminated to anyone else without a government order or consent from the person that was tested.

If government's motives were always noble and pure, the author of this report would be less likely to oppose the mass collection of information. Indeed, there would be ways to collected and analyze the information without attaching names to the DNA profiles. However, having names attached would open a massively possibility of abuse and privacy invasion. Governments could overreact, for example, if a DNA sequence suggests a marker for mental illness. People could be committed even if they exhibit no symptoms of the associated mental illness, let alone come to the usual standard of a person posing a threat to themselves or others (Tammelleo). The latter is the usual, and should remain, the standard for committing or treating someone involuntarily


DNA has emerged over the last thirty years as a powerful tool to help catch criminals and prove paternity (and sometimes maternity) of children. However, something so revealing and powerful can be so easily abused and misused. To suggest that government agencies are above this point is specious and flat-out wrong as governments step over the line all of the time and this includes district attorneys, child protection agencies, mental health agencies and so forth. However, whatever well-regulated and measured benefits that can be required or at least offered to the public, with or without the involvement of the government, should be explored.

Works Cited

Aarli, Ragna. "Genetic Justice And Transformations Of…

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