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posted by martyb on Friday January 25 2019, @08:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the Gattaca dept.

Coming Soon to a Police Station Near You: The DNA 'Magic Box'

They call it the "magic box." Its trick is speedy, nearly automated processing of DNA. "It's groundbreaking to have it in the police department," said Detective Glenn Vandegrift of the Bensalem Police Department. "If we can do it, any department in the country can do it." Bensalem, a suburb in Bucks County, near Philadelphia, is on the leading edge of a revolution in how crimes are solved. For years, when police wanted to learn whether a suspect's DNA matched previously collected crime-scene DNA, they sent a sample to an outside lab, then waited a month or more for results.

But in early 2017, the police booking station in Bensalem became the first in the country to install a Rapid DNA machine, which provides results in 90 minutes, and which police can operate themselves. Since then, a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the country — in Houston, Utah, Delaware — have begun operating similar machines and analyzing DNA on their own.

The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived. In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act, which, starting this year, will enable approved police booking stations in several states to connect their Rapid DNA machines to Codis, the national DNA database. Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.

[...] But already many legal experts and scientists are troubled by the way the technology is being used. As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases.


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Politics: DNA Databases in the U.S. and China are Tools of Racial Oppression 166 comments

DNA Databases in the U.S. and China Are Tools of Racial Oppression

Two major world powers, the United States and China, have both collected an enormous number of DNA samples from their citizens, the premise being that these samples will help solve crimes that might have otherwise gone unsolved. While DNA evidence can often be crucial when it comes to determining who committed a crime, researchers argue these DNA databases also pose a major threat to human rights.

In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a DNA database called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) that currently contains over 14 million DNA profiles. This database has a disproportionately high number of profiles of black men, because black Americans are arrested five times as much as white Americans. You don't even have to be convicted of a crime for law enforcement to take and store your DNA; you simply have to have been arrested as a suspect.

[...] As for China, a report that was published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in mid-June claims that China is operating the "world's largest police-run DNA database" as part of its powerful surveillance state. Chinese authorities have collected DNA samples from possibly as many as 70 million men since 2017, and the total database is believed to contain as many as 140 million profiles. The country hopes to collect DNA from all of its male citizens, as it argues men are most likely to commit crimes.

DNA is reportedly often collected during what are represented as free physicals, and it's also being collected from children at schools. There are reports of Chinese citizens being threatened with punishment by government officials if they refuse to give a DNA sample. Much of the DNA that's been collected has been from Uighur Muslims that have been oppressed by the Chinese government and infamously forced into concentration camps in the Xinjiang province.

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @08:19AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @08:19AM (#791667)

    which police can operate themselves

    Lovely, another device that can be poorly configured, maintained and verified. Let me guess, no source code for auditing, either.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday January 25 2019, @04:36PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 25 2019, @04:36PM (#791849) Journal

      Source code for auditing is needed if it can be proven to be at least as secure as IoT.

      --
      If we tell conservatives that the climate is transitioning, they will work to stop it.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @10:31PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @10:31PM (#792057)

      I see no problems letting local flatfoot operate a DNA machine. Right.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @08:33AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @08:33AM (#791671)

    Fake jewels to pigs.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @09:38AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @09:38AM (#791676)

      "Give it up son, we have your dna. Our machine said you did it. Confess and we'll put in a good word with the DA"
      Get a lawyer. Say nothing. Admit nothing.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @09:59AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @09:59AM (#791682)

    Why worry? This is an enormous breakthrough! With it the police will be able to pin any crime they want on anyone because we all know that DNA is infallable!
    https://kellerlawoffices.com/prosecutors-drop-murder-charge-due-dna-transference/ [kellerlawoffices.com]

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @11:00AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @11:00AM (#791685)

      They had a stall in the middle of the mall where people could voluntarily submit their fingerprints. This was a two decades ago.
      The mind boggles.

      • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Friday January 25 2019, @02:58PM (1 child)

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Friday January 25 2019, @02:58PM (#791784) Homepage

        I'd voluntarily submit a DNA sample for the police department, for females-only. Do you want it on the face or chest?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @03:53PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25 2019, @03:53PM (#791818)

          Wait for them to get the transitioning female out.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by gringer on Friday January 25 2019, @11:13AM (2 children)

    by gringer (962) on Friday January 25 2019, @11:13AM (#791691)

    90 minutes? Pfft. I can do it in 45:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHCAb-PAqUI [youtube.com]

    --
    Ask me about Sequencing DNA in front of Linus Torvalds [youtube.com]
    • (Score: 1) by shrewdsheep on Friday January 25 2019, @12:33PM (1 child)

      by shrewdsheep (5215) on Friday January 25 2019, @12:33PM (#791699)

      Thanks, very informative. One observation: I believe the police machine does micro-satellites, meaning specific DNA locations need to be first amplified and then sequenced. This is a time-consuming step that can be (optionally) skipped when doing shot-gun sequencing as shown in the video.

      • (Score: 2) by gringer on Saturday January 26 2019, @07:17AM

        by gringer (962) on Saturday January 26 2019, @07:17AM (#792235)

        Microsatellites can also be specifically targeted using nanopore sequencing by using a CRISPR-targeted transposase, together with a feature of the sequencing kits that means that only phosphorylated bases are sequenced. Alternatively, it can be done by chopping up the DNA and using magnetic bead selection to fish out target sequences.

        --
        Ask me about Sequencing DNA in front of Linus Torvalds [youtube.com]
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DannyB on Friday January 25 2019, @04:41PM (1 child)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 25 2019, @04:41PM (#791851) Journal

    If it can be made quick enough and cheap enough, imagine the implications:

    * Routine DNA collection at traffic stop. Touch this device and you'll only feel a little prick*.

    * GATTACA

    * not being well endowed might affect ones choice of career path to compensate by being a police officer

    --
    If we tell conservatives that the climate is transitioning, they will work to stop it.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday January 26 2019, @12:52AM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday January 26 2019, @12:52AM (#792128) Journal

      * Routine DNA collection at traffic stop. Touch this device and you'll only feel a little prick*.

      A database search immediately begins. Within seconds, you suddenly hear...

      YOU ARE THE FATHER!
      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
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