(TNS) — PLEASANTON, Calif. — At the IntegenX Inc. headquarters on Stoneridge Drive, employees are hard at work developing upgrades to their product: a small machine that can unravel DNA code in less than two hours.
The company is a leader in the market for what is known as rapid DNA technology, which has shortened the time it takes to process DNA testing from weeks to about 90 minutes. It could get a boost from recently passed legislation that sets new federal rules for how law enforcement processes DNA, something the company’s leaders have been lobbying for in the past few years.
IntegenX CEO Robert Schueren called the passage of the bill — the Rapid DNA Act of 2017 — a “landmark day” in fighting crime. The bill will allow law enforcement agencies to perform real-time DNA testing at the time of arrest at their own booking stations, comparing samples to profiles in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) under guidelines set by the FBI.
Using the technology, investigators can find out whether an arrestee’s DNA matches the DNA in the FBI database while suspects are still being processed. But the prospect raises privacy concerns for some.
Before the legislation, law enforcement agencies had to send DNA samples to government labs and wait for it to get tested, which could take days or even weeks. The bill allows law enforcement agencies, under FBI guidelines, to use rapid DNA technology — made by companies like IntegenX or Ande — to automate the process and test DNA much faster to find database matches. The FBI is the only agency allowed to have a national DNA database, which holds information on nearly 13 million people suspected of or convicted of crimes.
But the technology — and the bill that allows for its expanded use — has privacy and civil liberties advocates worried because it means the expansion of a national database that includes DNA samples of those who are arrested but never convicted of a crime.
“Our position is that DNA should not be taken at arrest,” said Michael Risher, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, adding that the same information that leads to an arrest should be used to get a warrant for a DNA…