Will Wilson is a former GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
State legislators are taking a new interest in DNA databases and in whether the evidence stored in them skirts rules about privacy and security.
The focus of attention is on local databases. These are systems operated outside of the national DNA database network, known as CODIS. CODIS--the Combined DNA Index System--is run by the FBI but links genetic samples stored in state databases. The rules on whose material can or cannot be part of the CODIS system are clear: The FBI cannot store samples from suspects who have been acquitted or those who voluntarily supply a DNA sample to prove their innocence.
This is not true of the local databases, which collect and store samples from a wider variety of sources, such as crime victims and suspects. While there are no laws preventing local databases from collecting or storing this data, the amassing of such material has been raising concerns that the databases infringe on the rights of innocent citizens and that their unregulated laboratory procedures could lead to misuse of the genetic samples.
At least five states--California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and New York--have local databases. New York is home to at least eight of them, and that has gotten the attention of New York State Assemblyman Joseph Lentos. He is sponsoring legislation to restrict their operation.
Lentos wants to ensure that state law stays ahead of rapidly changing technology and science. "DNA is a whole different world," he says. "We want to make sure that it's handled carefully."