Legislative and Ethical Questions regarding DNA and Other Forensic "Biometric" Databases

  • Elazar (Azi) Zadok
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6005)


Forensic Science is gaining more importance in criminal justice, since the development of new sensitive and accurate scientific tools, and the construction of large computerized databases. Although very effective, these databases pose a lot of legislative and ethical concerns. In case of DNA concerns are deeper since it contains sensitive genetic information regarding its owner, not necessarily needed for his identification. This paper focuses on issues related to the collection, utilization and retention of DNA samples and profiles of legally innocent populations, illustrated by a case study where a voluntarily given DNA sample for a murder investigation successfully solved three non related rape cases.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Etzioni, A.: DNA Tests and Databases in Criminal Justice: Individual Rights and the Common Good. In: Lazer, D. (ed.) DNA and the Criminal Justice System: The Technology of Justice, pp. 197–223. MIT Press, Cambridge (2004)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gill, P., Jeffries, A., Werrett, D.: Forensic Applications of DNA ’Fingerprints’. Nature 316, 76–79 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Whittall, H.: DNA profiling: Invaluable police tool or Infringement of Civil Liberties? Bioethics Forum (2007), http://www.thehastingscenter.org/Bioethicsforum/Post.aspx?id=648 (accessed at)
  4. 4.
    Prainsack, B.: An Austrian Perspective. BioSocieties 3, 92–97 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rothstein, M., Tallbott, M. (The expanding Use of DNA in Law Enforcement: What Role for Privacy? J. of Law, Medicine and Ethics 34, 153–164 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Zadok, E., Ben-Or, G., Fisman, G.: Forensic Utilization of Voluntarily Collected DNA Samples: Law Enforcement vs. Human Rights. In: Hindmarsh, R., Prainsack, B. (eds.) Genetic Suspects: Interrogating Forensic DNA Profiling and Databasing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (publication date spring 2010)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Harlan, L.: When Privacy Fails: Invoking a Property Paradigm to Mandate the Destruction of DNA Samples. Duke Law Journal 54, 179–219 (2004)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mepham, B.: Comments on the National DNA Database, NDNAD (2006), http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/fileLibrary/pdf/Professor_Ben_Mepham.pdf (accessed at)
  9. 9.
    Williams, R., Johnson, P., Martin, P.: Genetic Information and Crime Investigation: Social, Ethical and Public Policy Aspects of the Establishment, Expansion and Police Use of the National DNA Database. Research funded by the Welcome Trust, London (2004)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Burton, C.: The UK NDNAD Intelligence Led DNA Screens: A Guide for Senior Investigating Officers. Presented at the 1st Interpol DNA Users Conference, Lyon (1999), http://www.interpol.int/Public/Forensic/dna/conference/DNADbBurton.ppt(accessed at)
  11. 11.
    Walker, S., Harrington, M.: Police DNA ‘Sweeps’: A Proposed Model Policy on Police Request for DNA Samples. Police Professionalism Initiative, University of Nebraska, Omaha (2005), http://www.unomaha.edu/criminaljustice/PDF/dnamodelpolicyfinal.pdf (accessed at)
  12. 12.
    Halbfinger, D.: Police Dragnets for DNA Tests Draw Criticism. The New-York Times, (January 4, 2003), accessed at: http://, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/04/us/police-dragnets-for-dna-tests-draw-criticism.html (accessed at)
  13. 13.
    Antoni Imiela- M25 Rapist Trapped by Crucial Forensic Evidence (2004), http://www.forensic.e-symposium.com (accessed at)
  14. 14.
    Bieber, F.R.: Turning Base Hits into Earned Runs: Improving the Effectiveness of Forensic DNA Data Bank Programs. J. of Law, Medicine and Ethics 34, 222–233 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kaye, D., Smith, M.: DNA Databases for Law Enforcement: The Coverage Question and the Case for a Population-Wide Database. In: Lazer, D. (ed.) DNA and the Criminal Justice System: The Technology of Justice, pp. 247–284. MIT Press, Cambridge (2004)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Nuffield Council on Bioethics: The Forensic use of Bioinformation: Ethical Issues. London (2007), http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/fileLibrary/pdf/The_forensic_use_of_bioinformation-ethical_issues.pdf (accessed at)
  17. 17.
    Parry, B.: The Forensic Use of Bioinformation: A Review of Responses to the Nuffield Report. BioSocieties 3, 217–222 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dierickx, K.: A Belgian Perspective. BioSocieties 3, 97–99 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Walsh, S.: Legal Perceptions of Forensic DNA Profiling Part I: A Review of the Legal Literature. Forensic Science International 155, 51–60 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Simoncelli, T.: Dangerous Excursions: The Case against Expanding Forensic DNA Databases to Innocent Persons. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 34(2), 390–397 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Privacy International. PHR2006- Privacy Topics- Genetic Privacy. London (2007), http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd%5B347%5D=x-347-559080 (accessed at)
  22. 22.
    Bikker, J.: Response Submitted to the Consultation Held by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2007), http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/fileLibrary/pdf/Jan_Bikker (accessed at)
  23. 23.
    Smith, M.: Let’s Make the DNA Identification Database as Inclusive as Possible. J. of Law, Medicine and Ethics 34, 385–389 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Jones, G.: DNA Database ‘Should Include All’. The Telegraph, (October 24, 2006), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1532210/DNA-database-should-include-all.html (accessed at)
  25. 25.
    Nelkin, D., Andrews, L.: Surveillance Creep in the Genetic Age. In: Lyon, D. (ed.) Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk and Digital Discrimination, pp. 94–110. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London (2003)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Norton, A.: DNA Databases: The New Dragnet. The Scientist 19, 50–56 (2005)MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Wadham, J.: Databasing the DNA of Innocent People- Why it offers Problems not Solutions. Liberty Organization press release, (September 13, 2002)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
  29. 29.
    Home Office: Keeping the Right People on the DNA Database: Science and Public Protection, London (2009), http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-2009-dna-database/dna-consultation? (accessed at)
  30. 30.
    Brettell, T., Butler, J., Almlrall, J.: Forensic Science. Analytical Chemistry 79, 4365–4384 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Szibor, R., Plate, I., Schmitter, H., Wittig, H., Krause, D.: Forensic Mass Screening using mtDNA. International Journal of Legal Medicine 120, 372–376 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Van Camp, N., Dierickx, K.: The Expansion of Forensic DNA Databases and Police Sampling Powers in the Post 9/11-Era: Ethical Considerations on Genetic Privacy. Ethical Perspectives 14(3), 237–268 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Prainsack, B., Gurwitz, D.: Private Fears in Public Places? Ethical and Regulatory Concerns Regarding Human Genomic Databases. Personalized Medicine 4, 447–452 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Asplen, C.: The Non-forensic Use of Biological Samples taken for Forensic Purposes: An International Perspective. American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics (2006), http://www.aslme.org/dna_04/spec_reports/asplen_non_forensic.pdf (accessed at)
  35. 35.
    Williams, R., Johnson, P.: Inclusiveness, Effectiveness and Intrusiveness: Issues in the Developing Uses of DNA Profiling in Support of Criminal Investigations. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 34, 234–247 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    McCartney, C.: Forensic DNA Sampling and the England and Wales National DNA Database: A Skeptical Approach. Critical Criminology 12, 157–178 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ansell, R., Rasmusson, B.: A Swedish Perspective. BioSocieties 3, 88–92 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Farhi vs. State of Israel: Serious Crime File 1084/06, Tel-Aviv District Court, (April 26, 2007) (in Hebrew)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Yissacharov vs. Chief Military Prosecutor: CrimA 5121/98 (1998), http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files_eng/98/210/051/n21/98051210.n21.pdf (accessed at)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elazar (Azi) Zadok
    • 1
  1. 1.Former Director of the Division of Identification and Forensic Science (DIFS)The Israel Police 

Personalised recommendations