DNA collections, analysis find US government fans of all stripes
For whatever reason, state collection of DNA – a biometric identifier – does not stir the U.S. public, at least, the way facial recognition algorithms tend to do. Yet the numbers involved in programs like these are only rising into the tens of millions.
Mother Jones, the icon of advocacy journalism in the United States, has published what it found in looking at a biometric-harvesting program born under liberal Pres. Barak Obama and expanded under his more-authoritarian successor.
The program in question was legislated by Congress in 2009 and aimed squarely at immigrants and immigration aspirants with some executive flexibility on enforcement.
Non-criminal, compliant asylum seekers and children under 13, for instance, were more likely to avoid the DNA dragnet. Any link between immigration status and crime is debated.
As a rule of thumb, most non-citizens who would otherwise already be subject to fingerprint-scanning by the government could expect a likelihood of facing cheek swabs.
But, as Mother Jones points out, growing anti-immigrant fervor in the nation after Obama left office robbed the U.S. attorney general of discretion in deciding which people wanting to live in the country – mostly people of color – were exempt.
There might be another Democrat in the White House (Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, no less), but the DNA identifier program for those seeking to live north of the Rio Grande River has reportedly grown dramatically.
The Biden administration has said it halted using DNA swabs to prove family relationships. Not only was that the only significant reversal by the executive branch, but Congress is also considering legislation that would foil the reversal.
DNA profiles stored in CODIS, or the attorney general’s omnibus Combined DNA Index System, rose 10-fold in 2022 compared what had been expected, according to FBI figures quoted by the publication.
That equals a million additions to the 21 million profiles already in CODIS. Immigrants’ samples were “a major source of this growth,” according to Mother Jones’ reading of federal documents.
That 1 million additional profiles could rise by 400,000 this year or next, according to FBI statements.
And, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online-rights advocacy, The FBI has asked for an additional $53 million to operate CODIS in its 2024 budget request.
The U.K. sees DNA collection as a tool to identify criminals and victims of crime but, at least in one case, it is requesting samples from anonymous male citizens.
The industry is responding to the interest. In June, Innovatrics added DNA searches to its biometrics services. Executives say they will add DNA identification to their automated biometric identification system, enabling police agencies to analyze DNA found in criminal investigations.