Privacy is becoming a bigger and bigger issue these days. From concerns about companies tracking your web surfing habits online and concerns about “net neutrality” to concerns about governments and individuals spying on people using drones to concerns about police intercepting and accessing mobile phone communications without permission, Americans have a valid right to be concerned about retaining their right to be left alone and to keep their personal information private.
In our high tech world, though, there is now a new privacy issue for you to be concerned about: your DNA. It seems that some police departments have begun to request information about your DNA without your permission (and, no, we’re not talking about the information in law enforcement databases of previous offenders). Matt Agorist provides details:
Sending a sample of your DNA through the post may seem like a harmless and novel way of tracing your ancestry, and millions of Americans have already done so, but there is a more sinister side to this relatively new enterprise.
If you’re suspected of a crime police can, if they have a warrant, request access to your DNA profile from both the Ancestry and 23andMe websites.
At this point, fortunately, these types of requests have not been common, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t become commonplace.
Now, you may think, what’s the big deal? It’s just my DNA, the most personal identifying information which I possess? No harm there, right? Well, maybe. But maybe not. Unfortunately, the availability of this type of information gives law enforcement another avenue to harass innocent people. Agorist gives us an unfortunate example of this:
It’s not just your DNA cops can request. Even if you haven’t given into the temptation of trying to pinpoint your long lost ancestors, your relatives could also get you in trouble, as was the case for Michael Usry Jr.
Usry Jr was a prime suspect in the cold case murder of 18-year-old, Angie Dodge. The Idaho Falls police got a warrant to use Ancestry’s database to solve the crime. It found Ursy Sr’s DNA, which closely matched DNA at the crime scene. Police then got a warrant for Ursy’s own DNA. In 2017, he was cleared of any involvement in the murder, however.
The problem is the potential for harassment for individuals who are completely innocent. If you have not committed a crime, then you do not deserve to have your privacy violated by an organization (law enforcement on any level) that, all too often, abuses the position in society of its members. The one thing that you don’t give a bully is additional ways to harass you, and this is no exception.
Have you been harassed by law enforcement this way? Even if you haven’t, what are your concerns? Tell us below.