Half a million children have had their DNA recorded on Britain's police database, the government admitted yesterday. The number of people being added to the police DNA database is rising rapidly, with a total of 667,737 people added to the database last year, home secretary John Reid said in a parliamentary written answer …
Why is this a problem ?
Ignoring how their DNA was taken, why is this an issue ?
Surely it will allow these children to be ruled out of criminal proceedings, or if they are involved and especially if guilty, they can be found out quickly and efficiently with the minimum of fuss and expense to the tax payer.
This sort of system will allow the Police to do their jobs better and maintain a safer society. Ok that sounds kind of over the top as if Im proposing a Utopia, but having an accurate DNA database will make a sizeable dent in crime figures as it will allow the Police to ID victims and criminals alike and take action more swiftly.
The only concern is ensuring the correct information is stored.
And why are all of these parents complaining so much ? Are they scared their child is going to be the next Kray twin when they grow up and don't want their spawn to be caught ?
Vague on detail. How, and under what circumstances have the govt obtained these samples?
Why this is a problem
Yes, because we all trust the police and their forensic skills - worked out really well for the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.
The problem is that our individual freedoms are being eaten away a bit at a time.
Why SHOULD the government have my DNA - UK law states I am innocent until proven guilty, not guilty if the lab says I am unless I can prove otherwise.
Why SHOULD I carry an ID card who's only real purpose is to enable the authorities to track it's citizens (doesn't have any impact on crime as criminals are inherently willing to break the law, doesn't impact terrorism - the Spanish suicide bombers all carried their Spanish ID cards).
Why SHOULD I be recorded on CCTV cameras 300 times a day, more than any other country.
RE: Why is this a problem ?
Personally i do agree with you that this database is not a bad idea, i actually think that as we already collect blood as a baby is born (for the oxygen test)we should store the DNA (so much easier to sort out baby swap mistakes for one), but spare a thought for those who are concerned that if/when we find certain genetic characteristics which make you more likely to offend/develop cancer/drive badly organisations might well be able to get their hands on it after new acts of parliment and then insurance premiums, job prospects, even quality of life due to indirect effects of this information sharing, could be affected.
I'm also for biometrics in principle....***prepares to be lambasted***
I might want to be able to break the law, because, suprisingly only to you, the government doesn't always want to listen to it's people so sometimes the people rebel, riot or demonstrate. Which is also an example of a law you might want to break at this particular point in history as the current government gets upset if you demonstrate too near them, or on certain subjects, or if there's too many of you, etc.
And do you want to live in a country where you can't leave your car on double-yellows for 5 minutes, leave your house without id, or any other of the many things that may be a minor transgression of the law because people like you have allowed the monitoring and data mining capabilites of this country to get to a stage where people and laws can be monitored automatically. Actually, ignore this point, the likelihood of any government managing to pull of an IT project of that size is very low.
Dan: Why it is a problem.
Historically, the accuracy of police records has relied on a single principle: criminals reoffend.
Thus if a partial fingerprint matched one on the police database, the owner was considered a reasonable suspect and brought in for questioning. However, police records now contain the details of non-offenders, and a partial match may bring back someone who has *never* committed a crime, but was once *suspected* of *possibly* having committed a crime.
Imagine three unique sets of DNA are found at the scene of a murder: one belongs to the murderer (who has never been arrested previously), and two to innocent people who had been at the scene prior to the event. One of these happened to be arrested in a case of mistaken identity, and released after the police took his DNA and stored it on file. The first person the police chase? The one on their records.
And you'll no doubt say that it's OK as he can prove himself innocent; but:
1) Some police officers still treat the database as though it contains a list of criminals. The guy's likely to get hounded and harrassed.
2) If it's OK to have that innocent man's DNA on file, is it fair isn't the other innocent man's profile recorded -- and the murderer's?
Now, even if you believe all people's DNA should be on record, you can't truly, honestly believe that it's fair to have an arbitrary set of innocent people on file and lined up to be the first suspect if they've been in the wrong place at the wrong time....
why is this a problem ?
I wonder whether "Dan" and "Edward" are perhaps police officers in disguise ?. The reason that it is not a good idea is because of the fact that (a) we cannot trust the Government,as has been shown many times they lie at will whenever it suits them. If they say they are not going to use the data for any fishing expeditions then we know that they will (b) The police cannot be wholly trusted, as I have discovered. Yes many of them may well be ok , but many of them are not and it will only be a while before the dna is used in some inappropriate way. In short it goes against all the principles that this Country has espoused in the past, mainly innocent until proven guilty. DNA is not infallible as has been shown on a number of occasions. This Country is rapidly becoming a police state ,due in most part I think to the fact that some interested parties managed to get a naive government (i.e. naive when it first came into power) to invoke laws that it should not have done, as indeed it started the Iraq "war" at the behest of Bush.
...and another reason why it's a problem.
As I said, the police like to think of their database as a list of suspects.
At the age of 16, your criminal record gets wiped, so the police don't know you've been in trouble before. So, now the police have a list containing DNA samples taken before 16th birthdays, and no way to identify which were guilty and which innocent. So they'll assume that they were all junior degenerates and likely to be career criminals.
Any more rights you want to give away?
These samples are collected by the Feds from anyone entering their local constabulary via the tradesmans entrance. (regardless of them actually being charged with anything, let alone convicted)
Any samples from crime scenes are then compared to this database, thereby trampling on a number of rights both enshrined in law, or implied by the spirit of our law.
I'm deeply uncomfortable with being added as a "default suspect" to this list, with all the convicted rapist, murderers and ne'er do well's that rightly inhabit said database. It's only a matter of time before some daft copper loses/has stolen/sells on ebay some or all of the data on this list, now answer honestly, would you object to your child being on this list when it is being printed in the Daily Star?
You can volunteer a DNA sample if you wish, so all the people above speaking out in support of this draconian measure are free to go and submit a sample whenever they wish.
This is bad but not for the reasons everyone is listing..
I think its terrible but not for the police state (its already there) and not for the potential of innocient people being called in (again, already being done).
But for the reason that as more innocient people get called, it is likely (and has happened) that some news hound or gabby police person fingers a person that is in fact innocient.. The public is far to anxious to hang someone that is SUSPECTED (not convicted) of a crime, there by making their life difficult or impossible. (think about how people want to ban "child sex offenders" and people SUSPECTED of being child molesters from even living in their towns, and having jobs.. there by making it even more likely that they will in fact commit some crime.
I think people fail to consider the mob mentality of the public and how damaging it can be.
re:At the age of 16, your criminal record gets wiped
You reckon? Think again. This is a good example of why we shouldn't trust what these people say - it isn't worth the constitution it's written on.
Yes I am paranoid
Just another step toward the goal of total population monitoring, tracking and control. The data and information collected from all our life intrusions (not just DNA sampling) will be used for whatever purpose the powers that be want.
The finding and prosecuting perpetrators of crime will be the touted advantage. The government will never inform the populace of the dozens or more other uses for this information.
I am a private individual, my life habits, places I visit, ATM machines I use, the money I spend and where I spend it, the mobile calls I make and receive, the emails I write, the roads I drive upon, the websites I visit. In fact NOTHING is the business of anyone, except those I interact with. Government included. Yet it is all there waiting to be data mined by anyone with a sufficient security level. Is this just a few people?, Is this a dozen people? Is it more? Who vets these people and what are their motives?
I believe the government lies, I believe the government is corrupt. As I am sure others do. Woe betide anyone who descents and finds evidence of government corruption once all this disparate information is centrally organised and indexed...... /me ensures foil hat is earthed.
If one trusts the government then one is unlikely to see this as problem.
However, think of the government not as an altruistic organisation that works for the public, but as a monopolistic corporation trying to maintain its market dominance. Now how does one feel about the government collecting and storing all this information?
The future? Governments come and go, coups happen, martial law happens, dictators appear and disappear... OK not so much in this country, yet. But the world is changing and changing very quickly, what if the rules of free speech are changed. Governments do have a habit of changing laws to suit themselves. Just like In China and other countries it could become illegal to even criticise government policy or to expose human rights issues here in the UK. All the information required to profile and find you is there. Who is to say a future government will not be pre-emptive in protecting it's secrets, lies and corruption? And those that do not fit into the sheeple profile are automatically suspects, or targets.
Why is it that some people still insist that the government acts for the good of the people? It is all about control.
Like I said I am paranoid, so please dismiss my ramblings as those of a mumbling, tinfoil hat wearing geek who spends most of the time under his desk.
Re: Why this is a bad thing...
Heh, someone else has already mentioned that if the original poster should donate their own DNA if he thinks its a good thing to be eliminated quickly from investigations.
I go one step further and say that all MPs and senior Police officers have to submit their DNA so that they too can prove they "have nothing to hide".
Why is this a problem ? - One word, GATTACA
Dystopian future where every individual's genes are known? No thanks. Once the information hits the public domain (and it will) or is snooped by or made available to companies; your job prospects, insurance premiums, housing, partner prospects are all likely to be affected. Once you artificially create a demand by telling people what genes will get them the lowest insurance premiums, you create a bioscience industry where people will want to be able to have their genes manipulated. Of course only the rich will able to buy the "Right" / "Best" genes for their offspring (as there'll be genes available for everyone's pocket book) thereby making their offspring more successful and so the cycle continues. Tailor made people. Do you really want to pursue that?
Because that's what will happen if you start to hold people accountable for their genes. If there are genes identified that show an individual to have a better than average chance of being slightly more aggressive, will you allow that gene to be pruned from their DNA at conception, or do you allow them to keep it and simply monitor them throughout their adult life, or "treat" them with drugs. Do you really want the state to identify what the "Right" genes are, and dictate what sort of child you can have? Or give them the ability to predict how you are likely to behave and tax you accordingly? Or let them know how you are likely to die?
Just out of interest..
Just out of intrest, what is the benefit of being able to track everyone via DNA to the 'Evil' government?
And, more importantly, will they be keeping all said info in their own Death Star?
I am on this database because of a minor offence when I was 15, I have no record but they keep the dna on file.
What worries me is that it would be very easy to frame me for a crime now, you would just have to leave one of my fag butts at a crime scene.
Is there a way to have yourself removed from this database?
Suprised nobody has mentioned it , but those half a million kids can be used for familial matching. Just like it sounds it matches based on family DNA traits.
The first successfull prosecution was in 2004 where a lorry driver died after a brick was thrown through his cab windscreen. A car was broken into nearby leaving blood samples in the attempted theft and after that they took some bricks to the nearby overpass which presumably they left blood on.
As there was no initial DNA match they matched the DNA to a family who did have someone on the database which obviously makes it very easy to find a suspect. So those 500,000 kids + the adults at however many million make it very likely some of your DNA is on the database already.
How, yes ?
"By Gary McCabePosted Friday 11th May 2007 13:13 GMT Vague on detail. How, and under what circumstances have the govt obtained these samples?
I have to say I'm with Gary on this one.
I humbly suggest El Reg to do a follow-up and more
in-depth investigation on this one.
I mean, if all that has been obtained, you know, with
the help of any, er... education fund ...
Just out of interest..
"Just out of intrest, what is the benefit of being able to track everyone via DNA to the 'Evil' government?"
The benefit of course is cold hard cash. Data like this would be worth a lot of money to the wrong people. And we all know how much some Govt. officials / coppers like to make a bit of cash on the sly.
Consider a crime where some DNA is found.
The police, using other evidence, find, arrest and charge someone with the crime. Then they test his DNA, and find it matches. The chance of a wrong match are approx 1 in a million, and the this evidence is brought to court; the jury convicts on the basis of it.
The police have no evidence whatsoever, except for the DNA, and so they look this up in the database. They find a match, and arrest the man. The same statistics are given to the jury, who convict.
The Bayesians reading this will spot the subtle flaw; most police and jurors will not. The flaw is this: in (2), we have already "used up" the information given by the low probability of a mismatch when we searched for the suspect. [Out of a population of 50 million, it's almost certain that someone in the database will match] We can't then use the *same* DNA statistics to prove guilt "beyond reasonable doubt".
This is why DNA databases are dangerous.
I think I am on the list...
I was a very low grade suspect in a murder inquiry a while back, and was able to easily prove that I couldn't have been involved, but I did go through various checks...
Now, Imagine I were to go into a shop and buy, say a hammer (after examining a few on display) then take it to the counter and pay (in full view of CCTV). I then use the hammer for a job somewhere, but leave it behind, or accidentally drop it off the side of my boat while fixing something. Meanwhile some nasty piece of work has shoplifted one of the other hammers I examined and used it in a nasty murder.
Now, the police find me through DNA (mine was the only set on the hammer as the murderer used gloves). They locate CCTV footage of me buying such a hammer and I can't produce the one I actually bought. What jury would find me innocent when they have DNA evidence and film of me buying the murder weapon?
Even worse, DNA matching isn't 100% - especially with trace amounts. What if I never even touched the murder weapon, but someone with slightly similar DNA did and there is CCTV footage of me buying something that may or may not be a hammer (CCTV is not that clear). How easy would it be for the prosecution to make me look just as guilty?
I am the step-son of a police officer and I have to say that I have not the slightest doubt that a significant proportion of detectives would give the evidence a bit of a helping hand once they have a DNA match - I dare say a suggestible witness could be persuaded to pick me out of a line-up etc.
I shudder to think what this world is coming to!
The use and mis-use of DNA databases
Let me state up front that I do genetics research and live in the USA. I have certain biases and I'm not so familiar with this UK database.
Now, it sounds like there may have been some ethical lapses with the UK database. I'm also VERY uncomfortable with the idea of having a DNA database of people who are labeled as "criminals." I've seen how people who do police work and prosecute can fixate on proving someone guilty and not fully evaluate the evidence. Police and DA's sometimes seem more worried about locking someone up and conviction rates than whether they really got the right person. I'd worry that a DNA match would be considered proof of guilt, particularly if the database is seen as being "of criminals," when it might just be circumstantial.
However, I do see a lot of benefits to having a DNA database that contains DNA from everyone, *IF* proper safeguards can be put in place. Yes, it could be used to identify criminals, but it could also be used to identify bodies in disasters, track kidnapping victims, and identify lost kids. In addition, such a database could be used for public health purposes - to assess population level disease risks for example. I am very aware that there are many ethical issues that need to be worked out still, and I would not trust the current US government to administrate such a database ethically.
There are many very good things that can be done with a DNA database as well as not so good things. I would encourage people to think about how we can accomplish the good things while minimizing the risk of abuse rather than rejecting the idea of any sort of DNA database out of fear of “big brother” government..
I would like to raise my hand and say i live in a Utopian daydream where my company act's the way i think it should and i live in a United Kingdon which is thinking about going in the direction I am happy with.
I am more than happy to provide DNA to the Fuzz, I am not worried about having my coller felt for a crime I did not commit (a la 1982 with my crack commando team) I really belive that if my prints were found at a SOC that forensic aging would prove that I was not at the SOC when it happend, unless i passed on through within 7 days then i would sweat esp if the Lag wore gloves, but that is a risk i am willing to take, and to be honest unless said ne'er do well wore a hazmat suit to commit said crime the chances of a full false positive is quite low.
yes there is there inconvience factor but F**k it!! it makes a good pub story, how once you were given the "Bad cop, Good Cop" treatment by the Orrafices of the whores, sorry officers of the law.
How you get around the Anoym post "I think I am on the list..." about the hammer not sure, I would hope i had an alibi, like
"well I was at A&E getting my thumb reset after smacking it with the hammer, the CCTV, or ask Officer xyz who came in to arreset the drunken pratt having a go at the staff, go on check and get me a do-nut and coffee on your way back" or well "OK, you have my hammer but where is the victems DNA on said Item?"
The people who have fears are quite correct in having them, but like everything in life it's a numbers game, and the chances of it being you are slim, unless you truley are the worlds most unluckiest person.
One last thing, I'm not a Science whizz, but faking DNA i do not belive to be possible at least in the next 3 generations anyway, Finger prints yes, but that is not DNA.
The Daily Mail and all likewise media bod's have a lot to answer for with it's scare mongering!!
"Faking" DNA may be very difficult, but _planting_ DNA, when you already have a conveniently labeled and indexed sample from the desired suspect, should be a piece of cake.
The main thing that non-racially-motivated observers took away from the O.J. Simpson trial was that the LAPD practices in chain-of-custody for evidence were astonishly lax. I suspect that are not the only such police force. A conspiracy-nut of my acquaintance believes that O.J. actually arranged for a known bungler to investigate the case, to make it even easier to "buy himself a reasonable doubt".
No need to fake or plant any DNA
Just pick up anything near the crime scene as 'evidence'. Take it back to the lab and simply not follow procedures.
"Hey, there is a 100% match between this 'evidence' and this person's DNA sample."
Meanwhile, on the lab table are two pieces of equipment with nothing but DNA from the reference sample on file. i.e. Compare the on-file DNA with itself. 100% match. You (or any other corrupt official or lab technician or government) can frame anyone for anything.
But no one will ever mind giving their DNA to the authorirties. The authorities are in charge, remember?!
Here's the number one rule for governments and others in 'authority':
-- The government should be afraid of the citizens, not the other way around. --
The government is us! There is nothing special about elected officials. They are not super-human. Some might claim they are sub-human in certain cases. They are mortals. Common, ordinary, every day mortals doing a job. Some well. Others not so well.
If you want my DNA then get a warrant. A warrant that you had to go before a judge and ask politely and to whom you gave a valid probable cause for needing my DNA. And I don't mean, "We want to make a big database."
Now, if I decide to move to China, Cuba, N. Korea then all bets are off.
Why is this a problem.
Because, as Phil Zimmermann said over 10 years ago, "we should not deploy those technologies that would strengthen the hand of a police state" (http://www.animatedsoftware.com/hightech/philspgp.htm). Britain is already being accused by Amnesty International of human rights abuses (courtesy of the Great Leader), see http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engeur450042006
Who wants to live in a society where the state's information gathering abilities rival those of the Gestapo? Why don't those people who want to be monitored just sign up for a camera in their living rooms if it makes them feel safer?
Aside from all the current reasons for not collecting DNA from everyone, who knows what future advances in technology have in store for us? Imagine if you were prevented from having children by the state because your genetic makeup was "flawed" in some unacceptable way to the government of the day.
Or maybe your DNA indicates that you are prone to some sort of "behavioral" issues that warrant you being subjected to 24/7 monitoring (for your own safety, of course). It would be like your own personal lie detector that you wouldn't even have to open your mouth to incriminate yourself.
And finally, ref the comment about the police/MPs having to be DNA scanned to "prove they have nothing to hide", it proves nothing of the sort. Choosing to keep aspects of your life private from the state is a fundamental part of living in a free society.
Just a comment after Gareth's comment that "it isn't worth the constitution it's written on."
Well, the UK doesn't have a constitution!
Sure the apologists for the regime like to talk about an 'unwritten constitution' as if that means something. You think I could sell my unwritten novel? There's no constitution. There are only laws and more laws. All of which can be changed at any moment without even a referendum or election.
The fact is, parliament can invent any new laws and repeal any old ones as they see fit, and there's really nothing to stop them except civil disobedience. (If you want to rely on the mass media to protect civil liberties, good luck to you).
It is ethically and morally 'right' for citizens (sorry, I should say "subjects", there is no such thing as a British "citizen") to break the law when the government is doing something ethically and morally 'wrong', like committing war crimes. It can be argued that it is our civic duty to do so.
Should we risk ending up on a DNA database for doing our civic duty?
The need for a proper written constitution has never been more urgent.
Our PM is known to follow Blair and Bush in many things and so this is no surprise. Australian Access Cards are proposed to be up and running by 2010, around the same time the planned UK identify card seems to start becoming mandatory. See http://www.accesscard.gov.au/ and http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Privacy/accesscard.html for a response. The Govt says you are not required to obtain an access card, but you will not be able to deal with Govt services unless you do :)
I believe a number of the against arguments in this thread are quite reasonable.
I work in a related Government department and will be watching developments with great interest.
You get the Laws you allow...
Funny thing is, I wrote the DNA system used by a Police Jurisdiction here in Australia, so I am familiar with the rules which apply to DNA (and Fingerprint) retention... and I sleep soundly at night.
Put simply, unless you tick the box which states the Police can keep your sample, the sample and the DNA profile (and fingerprints) must be destroyed if you are found innocent. Period. They get to keep a record of the fact you got FPd/DNAd, but not the actual artifact.
If you're found guilty, on the other hand, your DNA is theirs to keep.
Simple rule, profound sleep.
Obviously, someone wasn't listening when the UK police put forward their "retention" requirements and they went through on the nod.
re: You get the Laws you allow...
Interestingly no-one has given a thought to existing UK law that protects your personal information and that you can use to prevent people using your DNA held on file.
The Data Protection Act 1998 is designed to protect your information and provide safeguards against the unlawful use of your information. There are 8 principles of the act that determine whether processing of personal data is lawful. The first principle is the key as it states that processing must be lawful and fair. The fifth principle states that personal data can only be held for as long as is necessary.
DNA is medical information and as such is classified as sensitive personal information. Under the DPA, before you process (i.e. use) such information you must satisfy the conditions under both Schedule 2 & Schedule 3 of the Act. Schedule 3 states you must have the explicit consent of the individual before you collect and store the sensitive information unless any of the sub-sections apply. It is the application of S6 & S7(1) that, for me, is at the heart of the argument. The two sections say that use of sensitive data without consent is lawful if it is being used for legal (or prospective) proceedings and also the administration of justice. It is argued that retaining DNA evidence is lawful as it is needed to disregard those who don't match the DNA.
Edward earlier said that babies' blood is collected at birth for a nukber of tests. Under proposed regulations, hospitals could be forced to share the DNA with the police without informing the parents. Is this lawful? Does it make our society less vulnerable to crime? Are you happy to have your children's DNA to be held without your knowledge? Did you know that an individual's DNA can indicate their ethnic origin?
Personally, I am in general favour of creating a DNA database but it should not just be for police/security services usage. I would also want to see that such a database is heavily policed and also held and controlled by a Ministry (most likely the Home Office or whatever they call themselves) with access given only for specific crimes and not a general fishing expedition.
If you are not already aware, the DPA provides a channel for you to prevent the use of your DNA. Under S10, you can write to a data controller (in this case the police) to stop them processing your information or, if it hasn't started, prevent the use of the information if you consider reasonably that the processing will cause harm and/or distress to you and that the damage/distress is unwarranted. If the data controller fails to heed this request, there is the potential for criminal prosecution against the data controller. You also have a right to view yiour personal information, for a small fee, so you can find out if you are on the database.
1 IN A (uk) BILLION
"The chance of a wrong match are approx 1 in a million, and the this evidence is brought to court; the jury convicts on the basis of it."
iT'S ACTUALLY 1 IN A (uk) BILLION
The chances of a mis-match are totally negligible, and there would be additional evidence.
"we should store the DNA"
but as Richard Neil implies they don't store the dna in the database - I don't know how big a number you need to hold an encoding of human dna, but it's *big*.So I assume they hold encoded sequences of bits of dna - a bit like writing down a string of numbers then searching for that string in pi - if you have a long enough value of pi you'll find it!
Same thing with fingerprints - they hold a coded set of print characteristics, which is why there area a (small) number of people wrongly convicted on fingerprint evidence - the courts just *accept* it.
Bayes was ignored for years, and I'd be very surprised if you could convince a court with Bayesian logic even today (or even decent probability theory come to that).
It's mine and mine alone
DNA, Iris scans, maybe even my likeness - in a photographic way.
They're all mine and not for anyone to copy or steal.
If I am genetically gifted with resistance or even a cure for a disease, I'm selling and am not about to have some cheeky govt pinch it for the greater good.
That goes for crime solving / detection etc.
Bring on a UK DCMA and I'll sue the HO for their illegal DNA sharing network.
Re: 1 IN A (uk) BILLION
"IT'S ACTUALLY 1 IN A (uk) BILLION
The chances of a mis-match are totally negligible, and there would be additional evidence."
And its nonsense like that that makes DNA so dangerous.
People hear some statistic about how unique the entire DNA genome is, and have absolutely no idea that DNA matching only works on a few markers and combined with laboratory error and contamination issues, leads to vastly less certainty. Some checks on labs have revealed such poor practices that confidence of matches can be a low as one in several thousand.
But you can guarantee a jury will be made up of people like Martin who will trot out the billions to one figure every time, and return a guilty verdict no matter how much contradictory evidence is present.
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