In Arizona this week, a state legislator named David Livingston stirred a controversy about DNA that may be a portent of privacy nightmares to come. A law he proposed would have forced many residents to give samples of their DNA to a state database, to be stored with their name and Social Security number.
If passed, “many people—from parent school volunteers and teachers to real estate agents and foster parents—will have no choice but to give up their DNA,” The Arizona Republic reported. “Any DNA in the database could be accessed and used by law enforcement in a criminal investigation. It could also be shared with other government agencies across the country for licensing, death registration, to identify a missing person or to determine someone’s real name.”
A public outcry followed. In response, the bill was amended to require DNA “only from professionals who care for patients with intellectual disabilities in an intermediate care facility.” That focus is most likely due to a recent, widely reported crime: Weeks ago in Phoenix, police collected DNA from employees at a medical facility where a woman in a coma unexpectedly gave birth, identifying her alleged rapist.
All 50 states maintain the DNA of at least some convicted criminals. And members of the military must give DNA samples to ease identification in battlefield deaths.