The FBI has the DNA profiles of 21.7 million people

Originally published at: The FBI has the DNA profiles of 21.7 million people | Boing Boing


Damn, the FBI has it easy. Back in the day, the Stasi had to get creative.


I have 2 minds on this. The first is it seems very Big Brother - one of the reasons I did not send in my DNA for ‘family genealogy’ even though I received the test kit as a gift. Who knows where that info might end up?

That said - if this accumulation of DNA profiles can help identify criminals or win court cases against serial killers - well I’m kinda all for it.

In the same country where a searchable national database of gun ownership is expressly illegal because it would be too great an infringement on individual rights, a national DNA database is just fine.

Episode 18 GIF by The Simpsons


So you’re against Big Brother unless it helps put people in prison? Hate to break it to you, but that is being for Big Brother. :person_shrugging:


But gun owners are always law abiding citizens. /s
Until of course they aren’t.
Also the flawed logic for banning background checks, wait periods, enforcement of restrictions imposed restraining orders, etc.

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I mean, duh, haven’t you seen the X-Files?

Also, all of the ancestry sites where people post their DNA to find relatives is also catching criminals.

It is going to be wild in the future. I guess avoid doing crimes? But also, this is ripe for abuse.

It appears that Philip K Dick’s setting of The Minority Report in 2054 was optimistically far away. The Pre-Crime era is upon us!
And don’t get me started on the feel-good, government recognizes the error of its ways ending of the Tom Cruise movie.


part of the problem is, what happens when there’s a federal abortion ban. or, federal felonies for being trans. or if the government decides that blocking a highway during a protest deserves imprisonment

if we get another gop president, or if they get both parts of congress again: those are real concerns. and they’re already concerns at the state level: and the fbi does partner with state agencies

it’s all fine when we agree what “crime” means. which is never.

( personally, this is why i opt to change my dna every few years. :grimacing: )


Totally with you. I am not sure the government should have access to this data with out warrants, etc.


I know they’re collecting a lot of DNA in Maui to help identify remains. I’m not sure there is any other way they could possibly do it. Sure would be nice if the FBI was required by law to expunge all that collected DNA and records of it once the relevant investigation was over. If only HIPAA could somehow be expanded to mandate something along those lines.


“pre crime” feels like there’s definitely a line between pre-crime and storing/collecting information. Not that I’m for the government stock piling genetic information or any health related information for criminal investigative purposes.

yeah. warrants and what @theodore604 said: they shouldn’t be allowed to hang on to it past a certain time.

i’d propose this: spend whatever chunk of money it takes to get through the long standing rape kit backlog ( though backlog makes it sounds like they’re even trying to get them processed. ) once done, institute a 5 year retention policy and delete all of the dna records they currently have

they’ll finally get to use their catalog for crime fighting, people who should be in jail will be, and we’ll remove the inevitable misue that comes from having such a large dna set

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The ancestry sites are the ones that worry me the most.

From the perspective of someone who works in molecular genetics and uses the same identifiler assay that the FBI runs (to my knowledge): It’s a powerfull tool for confirming identity and immediate relatives, but isn’t good at finding 2nd degree relatives. (In clinical labs we use this to internally confirm the right samples were run in certain testing scenarios, and the data is never stored in a searchable manner for obvious privacy reasons).

However the SNP arrays used by 23 and me, ancestry etc… have such an incredible amount of data, that you can identify/estimate relatedness out several degrees. If a database search can identify a cousin etc… it won’t take long to identify you.


Well I guess so then. The criminals have since wised up to fingerprints… /S

This is one of those things that sounds almost ok so long as there are no bad actors involved. That caveat is the sticking point. How will this be used to hurt people? Or ultimately how relevant will it be? After all, we’ve seen time and time again when evidence goes ignored when it favors someone that the system doesn’t.

Honestly, though, is there a way to put this genie back in the bottle? It’s not like LEOs are going to give up their preciouses. I have no doubt it will be used to ID people who have committed no crimes (of the sort we think of as crimes) but there is a huge opening for abortion hunters, political opponents, protesters and etc. How do we undo it?


I don’t know if we can roll it back, but we absolutely could put increased oversight on use of DNA evidence and also inact meaningful change in forensics regulations. If leos can’t abuse the DNA database like they do with their other tools (e.g. fingerprints), they’ll invest a lot less into building it.

The dangers that first occur to me are the admission of “partial DNA matches” in trials and the soon-to-be neo-phrenology of what genes cause criminality. Both of those are preventable

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