DNA, con’t.

Well, I guess I’m going to have to add a DNA metatag.  Will do.

Two more interesting DNA articles happened to appear together in my Google Reader feed today.

The first article is out of Austin, Texas, detailing a recent law suit about how the State of Texas has been harvesting and keeping the DNA records of all newborns since 2002.

Before anyone gets too conspiracy-theory on us all, the article does note that parents can opt-out of the program, but it depends on them both being aware of the sample uses, and the form in which the opt-out request must be made.

It should also be noted that it took the aforementioned suit to prompt a change in the law:

The lawsuit prompted change in the Texas Legislature. House Bill 1672 allows the State to keep and use the samples for research, but requires parents be informed and given the option of having their children’s leftover blood samples destroyed after screening. The state has 60 days to destroy the blood cards after receiving the official notification form from parents.

The form directs the state to destroy the card containing the dried blood spots, but does not insure any information gathered from the generic material is deleted.

Why is Texas taking the samples in the first place?

The state said there is a legitimate reason: Research.

According to court documents, the state admits some of the blood samples collected for the newborn screening program were used for other purposes, but said it was done in accordance with federal and state law.

Interestingly, there are some backdoors to compelling the disclosure of information gleaned from these tests:

In addition, anyone involved in the program, including state employees or employees of a contractor or subcontract can be compelled to testify in any kind of judicial proceeding as to the existence or contents of any records, reports or information.

The article concludes with a little bit of modern history:

National DNA Database

In 2006 and 2007, then, Senator Obama, filed legislation that would create a national DNA database. The same bill was filed by Sen. Patrick Kennedy in 2008 . The bills required parental consent, but all three died in the Senate.

Immediately followed in my Google Reader feed was this article from Slashdot:

a new software approach to police sketch artists is finding surprising success in a trial run of 15 police departments in the UK and a few other sites. The software borrows principles from evolution with an interactive genetic algorithm that progressively changes as witnesses try to remember specific details.

What’s the connection, you might ask?  Well – if the algorithm mentioned in the Slashdot article is capable of taking input, or providing genetic output, then it’s a short hop from the National DNA Database to the genetic algorithm’s that is used (to fabulous success, apparently) to pin-point criminals.

Indeed, it may be a bit of science fiction or seem like fantasy, but – and this is a recurring theme, by now – once the data from the DNA samples is made available, there are less and less restrictions on how it can be used.

When people are motivated by any number of different things, it is truly not a drastic leap of faith or logic to think about the Minority Report scenario that only a few years ago seemed absurdly impossible.