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Business: Stealing and Marking with DNA

October 23, 2010

E.J. Manning

The New York Times recently fielded a story that highlights a new use for DNA material in crime prevention for business. Coming into vogue in the Netherlands, security in restaurants, jewelry stores and the like are using synthetic DNA spray to mark burglars with expectation of identifying them later for arrest. This approach can also be used to protect valuables.

During the course of a robbery, employees secretly activate a device that releases a fine, barely noticeable spray. This spray mists anyone in the vicinity with a unique location-based synthetic chemical DNA. This synthetic chemical is visible only under ultraviolet light which is used to match a suspect to a business that has been robbed.

Because of the perceived power of DNA, this method has been heralded as being highly effective because of its deterrent power. These businesses sport conspicuous warning signs, highlighting fear of the unknown. Curiously, nobody has bothered to consider how innocent bystanders and customers could feel about being fingered by unnecessary chemicals and the trouble of being interrogated by police. Widespread notions that DNA is infallible holds out the very real threat of abuse.

As a customer, you will ultimately hold the power to decide whether this approach to marking both criminals and innocents during criminal events can threaten your civil liberties and privacy.

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