quently, the creation of a DNA profile databank would require decisions about the extent of the DNA profile to be recorded.

  • Fingerprints are more highly individualized than DNA profiles based on the RELP technology being used in forensic laboratories. Consequently, a match between an evidence sample and an entry in a DNA profile databank should not automatically lead to the assumption of identity, but should be confirmed by the examination of additional loci that are not in the databank.

  • Obtaining an inked fingerprint from a person is much less intrusive, costly, and difficult than drawing a blood sample for DNA typing.

  • Collection of fingerprints from known persons is inexpensive and relatively easily accomplished by someone with minimal technical background and training. In contrast, development of a DNA profile from a blood sample is time-consuming and expensive and requires extensive education, training, and quality-assurance measures. Consequently, the number of people who can be included in a DNA profile databank might be limited by economic considerations. Categories of persons to include must be selected with due consideration of costs and benefits.

  • The computer technology required for an automated fingerprint identification system is sophisticated and complex. Fingerprints are complicated geometric patterns, and the computer must store, recognize, and search for complex and variable patterns of ridges and minutiae in the millions of prints on file. Several commercially available but expensive computer systems are in use around the world. In contrast, the computer technology required for DNA databanks is relatively simple. Because DNA profiles can be reduced to a list of genetic types (i.e., a list of numbers), DNA profile repositories can use relatively simple and inexpensive software and hardware. Consequently, computer requirements should not pose a serious problem in the development of DNA profile databanks.

  • Fingerprints provide no information about a person other than identity. DNA typing can, in principle, also provide personal information—concerning medical characteristics, physical traits, and relatedness—that carries with it risks of discrimination. Consequently, DNA typing raises considerably greater issues of privacy than does ordinary fingerprinting.

In short, ordinary fingerprints and DNA profiles differ substantially in ways that bear on the creation and design of a national DNA profile databank.


Confidentiality and security of DNA-related information are especially important and difficult issues, because we are in the midst of two extraordi-

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