This page looks at DNA as a biometric technology.
It covers -
- your genes as your identifier
Identification on the basis of an individual's unique,
stable and measurable genetic characteristics has gained
fundamental judicial, administrative and scientific recognition
over the past two decades.
DNA-based identification - based on examination of tissue,
semen or other samples - appears to be highly accurate
when correctly conducted (most challenges in recent years
have centred on the contamination or substitution of samples)
and has thus resulted in proposals for large-scale DNA
registers. It has also resulted in proposals for DNA-based
'authenticity labelling' of indigenous artworks.
In practice, DNA identification is technically challenging,
expensive and not particular quick (eg upwards of 15 minutes).
Accordingly its use centres on retrospective forensic
applications - 'who has been here' - rather than on-the-spot
verification and screening.
Community perceptions differ, with studies suggesting
that some people are unconcerned about DNA collection/use
and that others worried about potential misuse of information
in DNA registers (unsurprising given broader concerns
about genetic privacy highlighted earlier in this note)
or uncomfortable with perceived invasive collection mechanisms
(eg providing a swab of cells from inside their mouth
or a blood specimen).
Those concerns are likely to increase given recent media
coverage about poor practice in the laboratory and the
alleged ease of 'salting' an innocent person's DNA at
a crime scene. The sci-fi film Gattaca was thus
supposedly the inspiration for a DNA-substitution scam
in subverting a UK community register.
Points of entry to the literature include DNA and
the Criminal Justice System (Cambridge: MIT Press
2004) edited by David Lazer, Bioinformatics in the
Post-Genomic Era (Upper Saddle River: Addison-Wesley
Longman 2005) by Jeff Augen and The Genetic Imaginary:
DNA in the Canadian Criminal Justice System (Toronto:
Uni of Toronto Press 2004) by Neil Gerlach. Other works
are highlighted in the discussion of privacy here.
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