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The FBI really wants this DNA-scanning machine

The FBI really wants this DNA-scanning machine
photo courtesy of shutterstock

Swab, insert, press start. That's all police officers have to do to create a DNA profile with the RapidHIT 200.

Just a few years ago that might've sounded like science fiction, but now it's reality. Some law enforcement officers around the country are already using this machine to quickly generate DNA profiles that can help them solve crimes. Sounds great, right? But, there's a downside, too. The technology could be used to scan and store the genetic profiles of people who aren't convicted of a crime.

The machine is created by a company called IntegenX and is already being used by police stations Arizona, Florida and South Carolina to run DNA on samples and compare them to existing criminal DNA databases in those states. It's simple to use and can run a DNA profile in just 90 minutes. It can be effective, too.

In August, sheriffs in Columbia, South Carolina, used a RapidHIT to nab an attempted murder suspect.

There are other uses, too. The federal government could also use the gadgets to verify the identities of refugees in Turkey and Thailand seeking asylum in the U.S. And, that's not all.

Miles also says that federal immigration officials are interested in using rapid DNA to curb trafficking by ensuring that children entering the country are related to the adults with them.

While those uses sound great, RapidHit also has the potential to create a privacy nightmare for American citizens who haven't committed crimes. That's because the FBI wants to use it to expand an existing national DNA database that includes records from criminals and innocent people.

Next page: Privacy issues
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