Surrender your genome: Arizona wants to make DNA swabs mandatory to create state-database of everyone
They took our cookies, they hacked our TV's, now they want DNA
Whenever the government wants access to a new aspect of its citizens’ private lives, the excuses are always the same:
“It’s for the good of the whole,” they’ll tell you. “It’s so the good guys can catch the bad guys faster.”
“This will make it easier for police to do their jobs.”
“It will make the community safer.”
“If you aren’t a criminal, what have you got to worry about?”
These are the same lines Americans were fed when the Feds passed the Patriot Act in 2001, giving the government almost unequivocal authority to spy on its own citizens. They are the same lines fed to Americans when Edward Snowden blew the lid off operation PRISM, revealing that the FBI, CIA and NSA were gathering and storing all of America's online information without consent.
And now, they are the same lines that Arizona lawmakers are spoon-feeding their residents in order to pass a bill that would require residents and professionals to provide the state with their most personal biologic information: their DNA.
The bill, known as SB-1475, in its original form would have required all teachers, police officers, child daycare workers, home inspectors, physical therapists, homeless shelter employees and many, many other professionals (from a variety of industries) to turn over both their DNA and their fingerprints to the state government for “security purposes.” The DNA and fingerprints would then be stored together with a person’s social security number, their name, date of birth and even their last known address in a government database.
And, as if the blatant violation of privacy wasn’t enough of a slap in the face, lawmakers added insult to injury, ordaining that every individual required to submit their DNA, would also have to pay the $250 processing fee associated with the test, out of pocket.
Apparently, there isn’t room in Arizona’s state budget to sponsor such fuckery. So, forget your groceries, forget your loans and insurance payments, and cancel your weekend plans — the state needs your DNA and they need you to pay for it.
In fact, the only Arizonans that would qualify for a state-comped DNA test, are those that show up to the morgue in a body-bag. All deceased persons would automatically forfeit their DNA (if they haven’t already) to be plugged into the AZ-DNA database, posthumously and without family consent.
Why? One might wonder. What is the purpose of aggregating so much genetic material from so many different people? Why do they want this database so badly?
Well, we reached out to Senator David Livingston, who introduced SB-1475, for answers to those questions. Actually, we reached out to him and his office multiple times, leaving multiple voicemails and sending multiple emails. To which, the Senator never responded.
Generally, though, here is their hope: by making DNA tests mandatory for so many residents and professionals in Arizona, police would have a huge database from which they could identify murderers, rapists, thieves and evil-doers with a minimal amount of genetic material left at a crime scene. That could be a hair follicle, a skin cell, a drop of blood, sweat or semen, any genetic material at all; police would be able to use that and look up who it belongs to, greatly diminishing the amount of footwork they need to do for any given case. Just plug in the crime scene DNA, push a button and enjoy a donut while someone’s name, face and personal information pops up on the screen.
The future of police-work is truly gripping stuff.
Police could even identify criminals by proxy, with this system. So, if your father or mother committed a crime, but wasn’t in the AZ-DNA database, police could still identify them using your DNA. You could become a police informant without ever knowing it and without ever consenting to it.
They could even use this database to solve years-old cold-cases, long after they were deemed “un-solvable,” after every lead had hit a dead end. If someone is entered into the system who matches genetic material found at an old crime scene, police suddenly have a hot new lead even if the case has been ice cold for decades.
That’s the trick, though: in order for DNA forensics to work, you need to have the right person’s genetic-material to match the genetic-evidence against. It is an extremely effective way of nabbing criminals, if the police already have the perpetrator’s DNA entered into a system. Without that though, the cops’ hands are tied — this incredible, futuristic crime-busting technology is left utterly defunct.
For now, SB-1475 is stuck in on Arizona’s Senate floor. Its status is listed as “held” on the Arizona legislative government website. So, people are safe from having to forfeit their DNA to their government — at least, for the time being.
If a state or federal library of genetic information is eventually established, though, it would grant police and federal agencies indescribable power hunt down people they deem to be “criminals.” And it would also make planting evidence, impossibly easy on their end. All a crooked cop would have to do, is swab evidence from a crime scene with someone’s DNA from the DNA bank and suddenly, they’ve got their perpetrator: whoever they want.
It’s unsettling. Particularly because, at its core, this has nothing to do with catching criminals, solving crimes or even the potential for abuse of power. At its deepest level, this is an issue of drawing boundaries. DNA is a human being’s most personal, individual information. Nothing you own is more distinctive to you. We’re not talking about IP addresses, phone passwords, social security numbers, location information or encrypted files here — we’re talking about a person’s cosmic barcode, the cipher that describes exactly what makes them who they are, where they came from and what their ancestors were like.
There has to be a line somewhere, a boundary that the government isn’t allowed to cross. Digital information, and even some physical information like fingerprints is one thing. But someone’s DNA? The most personal and important information a living being on planet Earth owns?
No government should be entitled to that.