COMMENTARY: Protecting Your Privacy and Your DNA can be Taken from the Air of Where You've Been? - by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

May 25, 2023 at 10:22 am by WGNS News

Protecting your privacy is one thing, but what about protecting your DNA? With more, here is MTSU Professor of Journalism Larry Burriss…


VERBATIM of COMMENTARY: OK, you've taken all of those steps to protect your privacy:  you shred all of your snail mail, you encrypt e-mail, documents and photographs. You change your password every month, and you never reveal any information during unsolicited phone calls or e-mails. For extra safety you make up false data for security questions and spammer phone calls. So you're pretty safe, right? Wrong.

Recent reports from forensics experts have shown your DNA can be taken from the air where you have physically been.

So you say you weren't at a particular place at a certain time? Well, DNA taken from the air can prove you were there. Of course, since you can't prove a negative, you won't be able to prove you weren't there, but airborne DNA can certainly show you were.

Scientists have known for years we leave a trail of sweat, oil, hair and skin wherever we've been. So if you've been at the scene of a crime, even if you're innocent, your DNA is now part of a nationwide police database called.

Police currently use some 20 DNA markers to make a positive identification from a crime scene. But researchers were recently able to collect the 20 relevant markers from an individual's DNA from the air of an ordinary office.

And they weren't using a machine the size of a room costing millions of dollars. You can buy a genetic sequencer on the open market for less than a thousand dollars. It is the size of a cigarette lighter and plugs into your laptop computer.

Unfortunately, believe it or not, there is as very real legal question of who does your DNA belong to once it is no longer on your person.  Some authorities consider it to be abandoned property, meaning anybody can collect it for whatever purpose they want.

Government authorities, of course, want to take an expansive view of who DNA collected from the air belongs to. Privacy experts want restrictions on who can collect such data, and what it can be used for.

Once again, we have an example of technology out-pacing the law, and experts from both, or all, sides of the issue are weighing in with their own view of reality. - I'm Larry Burriss.


About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.


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