Policy ForumSCIENCE AND LAW

Is it time for a universal genetic forensic database?

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  23 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6417, pp. 898-900
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav5475

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Summary

DNA is an increasingly useful crime-solving tool. But still quite unclear is the extent to which law enforcement should be able to obtain genetic data housed in public and private databases. How one answers that question might vary substantially, depending on the source of the data. Several countries—the United Kingdom, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia among them—have even toyed with creating a “universal” DNA database, populated with data from every individual in society, obviating the need for any other DNA source (1). Although this move would be controversial, it may not be as dramatic as one might think. In the United States, for example, the combination of state and federal databases (containing genetic profiles of more than 16.5 million arrestees and convicts) and public and private databases (containing genetic data of tens of millions of patients, consumers, and research participants) already provides the government with potential access to genetic information that can be linked to a large segment of the country, either directly or through a relative (2, 3). We discuss here how, if correctly implemented, a universal database would likely be more productive and less discriminatory than our current system, without compromising as much privacy.