DNA and Fingerprint Identification: Rhetorics of Reliability and Credibility

Simon A. Cole, University of California, Irvine
Michael Lynch, Cornell University

Legislative frameworks for the establishment and governance of forensic DNA databases exist in an increasing number of criminal jurisdictions. This paper considers the way in which such frameworks and the discussions surrounding their establishment rely on and reiterate a range of symbolic representations and cultural understandings of genetic material. Ethical and policy arguments concerning values or privacy, confidentiality and liberty are given their particular texture by reference to these representations. This paper examines the issues raised for police uses of DNA -- especially in the UK -- by the assertion that DNA occupies a unique ontological status as a distinctive form of personal identification.

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Updated 05/20/2006