Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shades of X-Files!

If it had been the Weekly World News or some similar source, I'd have treated the story like a Bigfoot sighting. But since it's on CNN, I'm willing to give it some credence.

A lot of states -- at the bequest of the federal government -- are doing involuntary DNA testing on newborn babies:
Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases. Since the testing is mandated by the government, it's often done without the parents' consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center.
Okay, that's bad enough; but to further aggravate the situation, that DNA data (with the names attached) is being kept for extended periods of time and dispensed to third parties:

Genetic testing for newborns started in the 1960s with testing for diseases and conditions that, if undetected, could kill a child or cause severe problems, such as mental retardation. Since then, the screening has helped save countless newborns.

Over the years, many other tests were added to the list. Now, states mandate that newborns be tested for anywhere between 28 and 54 different conditions, and the DNA samples are stored in state labs for anywhere from three months to indefinitely, depending on the state. (To find out how long your baby's DNA is stored, see this state-by-state list).

Now, I'm not one of those folks that think The Gummit is out to get me, or that I have to worry about black helicopters coming for me in the middle of the night. I do, however, have a mistrust of ANY governments ability to restrain itself. I worry that sooner or later, somewhere, somebody is going to say something along the lines of "Well, we've already got ______. Why don't we start doing _______ with it?"

Yes, the good that comes from DNA testing (that it's mandatory concerns me) is significant. But I can easily envision a raft of bad uses that would far, far worse.