In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act, which, starting this year, will enable approved police booking stations in several states to connect their Rapid DNA machines to Codis, the national DNA database. Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.
Law-enforcement officials said that the device had provided leads in hundreds of cases, helping to facilitate arrests and exonerate falsely accused individuals. Members of the Rapid DNA team in the Orange County, Calif., district attorney’s office said that some robbers were identified so quickly that they were caught still holding stolen goods. Rapid DNA machines were used to help identify victims of the recent wildfires in Northern California.
But already many legal experts and scientists are troubled by the way the technology is being used. As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases.