DNA testing: May be good for getting criminals but is it troubling for the rest of us?

Posted at: 06/06/2013 11:19 AM
By: Benita Zahn

Like everyone else, I don't want dangerous criminals roaming the streets. So on the face of things the recent US Supreme Court ruling allowing states could take DNA samples from persons accused of serious crimes without need of a warrant, sounds like a good thing.

But, like everything in life, the devil's in the details.

If it's okay to get that swap from a suspect's mouth for DNA when the crime is 'serious' what about when it's less serious? Who will be the judge of what constitutes a 'serious' crime? That has not been determined.

What if the police get 'the wrong guy' .. not the guilty one.  What happens to that DNA evidence and all the information contained within?

DNA information provides a wealth of data about our lives and the potential for health troubles down the road. That's why we have GINA, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, signed by President Bush in 2008. It's designed to protect Americans against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment. It also generally prohibits employers from acquiring or disclosing genetic information.

Sounds simple, but what does 'generally prohibit' mean? It's tough enough for most people to fully understand the rules of HIPPA (American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). So how to wrap our hands around the nitty gritty of our genetic information? And who will be responsible for overseeing that information taken from criminal suspects, to insure it isn't used against that person once they're exonerated?

While the expansion of DNA testing for suspected criminals sounds good on the face of things it should serve as a warning to all of us.

 If you choose to be tested to satisfy your curiosity, not because the government says you must be tested or because your physician recommends testing with an eye toward a specific genetic anomaly, understand that the answers you get can have repercussions beyond your personal life. Your genetic makeup is a window into the genes of your children, your parents, your siblings and other relatives. It can also be a call to change your life. Will you be prepared for that? And again, if the information does find it's way to your employer, your health insurer, be informed about the protection afforded you by the law.

for more info check out http://privacyblog.littler.com/articles/genetic-information/