What is DNA profiling? Explain the implications of its profiling bill.
Ans: DNA profiling is the
process of determining an individual’s DNA characteristics, which are as unique
as fingerprints. DNA analysis, intended to identify a species rather than an
individual, is called DNA bar-coding. It is a forensic technique in criminal
investigations, comparing criminal suspects’ profiles to DNA evidence so as to
assess the likelihood of their involvement in the crime. It is also used in
parentage testing to establish immigration eligibility, and in genealogical and
medical research. DNA profiling is also
used in the study of animal and plant populations in the fields of zoology,
botany and agriculture.
Cabinet cleared a bill that allows law enforcement agencies to collect DNA
samples, create DNA profiles and special data banks for forensic-criminal
investigations. The DNA Technology (Use and application) Regulation Bill 2018
is the latest version of a Bill that originated as a DNA “Profiling” Bill,
framed by the Department of Biotechnology. The aim of that draft legislation
was to set in place an institutional mechanism to collect and deploy DNA
technologies to identify persons based on samples collected from crime scenes
or for identifying missing persons.
was some opposition, in that some activists argued that the manner in which DNA
information was to be collected and the way they were to be stored by forensic
laboratories constituted a violation of privacy. A senior official familiar
with the Bill said that several clauses of the Bill were tightened to make it
stronger and immune to data abuse. “This doesn’t aim to create a database of
DNA profiles…The data banks can only store information related to criminal
investigations and the DNA details of the suspects will be deleted,” said
RenuSwarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology.
The Bill creates
a DNA Profiling Board that would be the final authority that would authorize
the creation of State-level data banks, approve the methods of collection and
analysis of DNA technologies.
The Bill is
still missing a number of safeguards that would enable individual rights. The implications of creating regional and
national level data banks need to be fully understood and publicly debated.
It is concerning
that the Bill has left the defining of privacy and security safeguards to
regulation–including implementation and sufficiency of protection, appropriate
use and dissemination of DNA information, accuracy, security and
confidentiality of DNA information, timely removal and deletion of obsolete or
inaccurate DNA information and other steps as necessary. Furthermore, though
the Law Commission cites the use of the 13 CODIS (Combined DNA Index System)
profiling standard as a means to protecting privacy in its report, this
standard has yet to find its way in the text of the Bill.
DNA is not fool
proof—false matches can take place for multiple reasons. Policy needs to
evolve past protections that are limited to process oriented legal privacy
provisions, but instead to protections that are comprehensive —accounting for
process and enabling the individuals to control and know her/his data is being
used by whom. Other countries have recognized this and are taking steps to
empower the individuals.