The Supreme Court has ruled that it is Constitutional for police departments to collect the DNA of suspects arrested, but not yet charged with any crime. The DNA samples, taken by cheek swab, are stored like a fingerprint database. The decision was 5-4 in favor of allowing the practice, but was not decided down party lines; Scalia was joined in his dissent by Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor. According to the APnews, Scalia had this to say in his dissenting opinion.
“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom.
Scalia is concerned that due process could be subverted since police can arrest and detain anyone for some amount of time, and then release them without being charged. There is concern that police will routinely find reasons to arrest people they suspect of other crimes in order to obtain their DNA. Since this practice does not involve evidence or Warrants, it would seem to be an unConstitutional search and seizure, as opposed to “a legitimate police booking procedure” as Justice Kennedy referred to it. I think our rights would be more protected if a Warrant was required to take the DNA of a suspect, or if criminals’ DNA was not routinely collected until after a conviction.
But that’s not the only creepy collection of personal data the government is going after. According to the Daily Mail, a school in Florida landed in hot water for collecting iris scans from their students as young as 6 without first alerting parents to the practice. It was done in the name of school bus security, but has since been suspended because of the public outcry. With the iris scans the school board said the schools and parents would be able to “know when and what bus a student boards, as well as when they arrive at school and leave from school.” But what parents are mainly concerned about is the fact that they were not notified of the collection until after it had taken place. Parents were angered when they were told after all the iris scans had taken place, to call the principle if they did not want their child’s iris scanned.
The school board claims all records have now been destroyed of the children’s iris scans, but why would the school not get parents’ permission in the first place? This is another case of a school overstepping its bounds and violating the rights of students, and the rights of the parents to decide how the government will treat their child, and what type of data collection is permissible. Schools need to know that parents are in charge of their kids, not the government.