A portable, breadbox-sized scanner could map out your body's DNA in less than an hour -- and the Feds want it added to the agency's tool bag.
The device is being studied in the research-and-development wing of the Department of Homeland Security, which provided a special small-business contract to Network Biosystems (or NetBio) to build it. The agency will use the scanner at first on asylum seekers and refugees -- but civil liberties guardians warned that the device has explosive potential for misuse.
"If it were used for routine criminal investigations, it would raise the specter of a national DNA database," Verdi told FoxNews.com. "There are a lot of legal and constitutional hurdles that would have to be overcome for it to be lawfully used." For example, DHS must take care to dispose of the information it gleans from a DNA scanning search once that information has fulfilled its purpose, Verdi said.
DHS spokesman Chris Ortman told FoxNews.com the agency expects to test a prototype of the rapid DNA screener this summer.
"Those requirements and obligations have to be observed. The department would be well advised to vet this technology through its privacy committees and its internal privacy apparatus," Verdi stated, "but in addition, there needs to be independent oversight of a program like this. There needs to be oversight by lawmakers and oversight by citizens who are experts in these areas of technology, health records, and security to ensure the agency is not collecting data, retaining data, or sharing data contrary to law and regulation."