Accepted paper:

Scrutinizing "genetic truth" and protection of personal data

Authors:

Sara Matos (University of Minho)
Helena Machado (University of Minho)

Paper short abstract:

Transnational exchange of DNA data for fighting criminality is being reconfigured as a kind of "truth machine". This paper explores the sociotechnical imaginaries emerging in processes of articulating technological measurements of "genetic truth" with multiple notions of protection of personal data.

Paper long abstract:

The simultaneous localisation and globalisation of 'terrorist threats' and cross-border criminality has rekindled the need to deepen cross-border police and judicial cooperation on the political agendas in the EU. In this scenario, the expansion of technological systems for large-scale exchange of DNA profiles plays a pivotal role. This paper takes as an empirical example the development and expansion of a technological system that imposes the automated exchange of DNA data between EU Member States. We explore the sociotechnical imaginaries emerging in processes of articulating technological measurements of "genetic truth" with multiple notions of protection of personal data.

Based on the analysis of a set of interviews conducted with professionals who are involved in a networked system of transnational exchange of DNA data for combating crime and terrorism, we address two main aspects: first, how these networks allow to account for both stability and instability in the technological measurement of "genetic truth". Second, we explore the societal and ethical implications of the transnational flows of DNA data. We conclude that the sociotechnical imaginaries played out amplify inscriptions of neutrality, mechanical objectivity and scientific authority, while, at the same time, diffuse responsibility and depoliticize power by making its actions opaque or invisible.

panel G01
Scrutinizing (bio-)technological truth assessments