back to article UK government tunes out debate on DNA database

The government has responded to an e-petition on the burgeoning DNA database but rebuffed its main complaint that the world's largest criminological genetic store has been built "by stealth" and without Parliamentary and public consent. 750 people had endorsed the e-petition, "StopDNAbystealth", which complained that DNA policy …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    prepare yourself for the new police state...

    Well don't we all feel safer knowing that the police can bash down your door, just because they found one of your hairs at a possible crime scene, and you happen to be on their database because you were wrongly arrested 20 years earlier.

    I can see it know.

    "Can you tell us where you were on such and such a date and time, and how."

    "Don't know officer, I was at home some of the time"

    "Well we know where you were, because we found one of your hairs, so your nicked."

    Even if an outcry (which should really be happening) makes the police delete data they have on anyone not convicted, the UK Gov seem to be making all sorts of new trivial laws or changing current laws to have lower tolerances. This of cause will lead to the general public finding themselves being invited down to the local nick to pay a fine and leave some samples for the database.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    whats in a name

    It would perhaps be better to refer to this as the GUPI database (guilty until proven innocent).


  3. Graham Marsden

    Are you positive...?

    Of course if those people who have been "matched" at those crime scenes are innocent, it's going to be very difficult to claim their right to the presumption of innocence since "we've got your DNA sonny!"

    Can you say "False Positive"?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What;s the big problem?

    Personally, I don't know what all the fuss is about? As a law abiding citizen I have nothing to hide and can only see positives from a full DNA database. I’d hope it would speed up law enforcement’s efforts to get dangerous criminals off the streets. What are people trying to protect?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new

    The police have been trawling for data for years.

    I remember when my car was vandalised, a copper came around to take a statement - the conversation went something like this :

    copper: did you see anything suspicious happening ?

    me : no.

    copper : Did you hear anything at around 9.30pm ?

    me : No, I had the tv on and the windows shut.

    copper : When did you notice the damage ?

    me : I didn't. I got in the drivers side and drove to work. The damage is all on the passenger side. Somebody else reported the activity at the time and the police used DVLA to find out my contact details.

    copper : I see, and how tall would you say you are ?

    me : ????

    Of course he had already got my hair and eye colour written down, to go with my address, workplace, DoB, etc.

  6. Robert Long

    Frameup heaven

    Given how easy it is to fake DNA evidence the whole database should be closed down - there's simply no way to stop the police framing someone with easily obtained samples.

  7. Iain Argent

    Not a full DNA database

    @ Anonymous poster (What's the big problem?")

    You've hit the nail on the head - it's not a full DNA database. I would feel a bit safer if all MPs, police officers and members of the judiciary were placed on the database. Perhaps safeguard might be taken a bit more seriously then.

    You either have a complete database and admit that that is what you are creating, or you destroy the samples taken from innocent people. It's the lack of openness I object to.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the big problem

    We are trying to protect our anonymity, right to being thought innocent until proven guilty. The idea that the police should in the first instance work with the evidence of the crime rather than just picking up everyone that happens to have left a DNA trace at the scene in the past.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If *they've* done nothing wrong, *I* have nothing to hide

    "Personally, I don't know what all the fuss is about? As a law abiding citizen I have nothing to hide and can only see positives from a full DNA database. I’d hope it would speed up law enforcement’s efforts to get dangerous criminals off the streets. What are people trying to protect?"

    As a fellow law abiding citizen, I can only be dismayed when I read that the checks and balances are yet again being discarded here.

    *You* and *I* may be law abiding citizens, but that's not true of everyone in authority over us. Quite a few up in high office have a heck of a lot of skeletons in the closet, and trust me, you'll never feel the same trust again in the police, once you've met a thug in a policeman's uniform.

    I trust the system, with all it's checks and balances, but I don't trust every individual in that system. Most will be fair, some will be good, and occasionally you'll get the crap beaten out of you for objecting to a random stop.

    All the Data Protection registrar wanted was the normal checks and balances in place as defined by the Data Protection act. FFS, all he wants is for them to obey the existing laws when passing new laws. Is that such a big thing to ask?

  10. Colin Jackson


    I was going to say "cue some dimwit happy with his own oppression crying 'If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear!'" but I see anonymous beat me to it.

  11. Paul Buxton

    Re: What's the big problem?

    Quote: "Personally, I don't know what all the fuss is about? As a law abiding citizen I have nothing to hide and can only see positives from a full DNA database. I’d hope it would speed up law enforcement’s efforts to get dangerous criminals off the streets. What are people trying to protect?"

    Then go to your local police station and donate some saliva so they can add you to their database. I doubt very much whether you will, after all, you didn't even put your name against the drivel you typed above. The fact of the matter is, if you were a child in school or a black person, you wouldn't be given a choice.

    "Law-abiding" doesn't cut it either. It's not the same as being "good" or "ethical" which are both examples of virtues. If the law is unjust, then being "law-abiding" makes you unjust also.

    I don't want to live in a society where I have to collect my hair from the barber's in a paper bag so that I can destroy it by fire so that nobody can plant any "irrefutable evidence" at a crime scene to "prove" it was me wot done it guvnor!

    Time to add an industrial incinerator next to the shredder - the things we have to do to protect our identities these days!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: What's The Big Problem

    Q: What do the innocent have to fear?

    A: The guilty.

    That includes criminals, corrupt and/or incompentant officials, oppressive governments (existant and potential future ones) and the like.

    Next time someone says the innocent have nothing to fear from invasion of privacy ask them to publish their full credit-card details on the web. After-all if they are innocent they have nothing to fear.

  13. Harry Stottle

    Another reason we need "Trusted Surveillance"

    I can see "Anon" has already been given a good kicking for his naivete but I don't think you'll have changed his mind.

    The first problem we've got is that "Anon" is more representative of the population than we are. And what the political class can get away with is largely determined by how many people will think like him rather than those of us who appreciate the dangers.

    The second problem we've got is that we don't even know whether we can trust the initial allegation that the police have found a dna match at the scene of the crime. Although they have fairly reasonable "chain of custody" in modern forensics, they still do not capture the activities to a digital and immutable audit trail so such evidence could have been obtained illegally (for example at the time of arrest) and "planted" by corrupt insiders. When it comes to re-examination of cases more than a few years old, the chain of custody is meaningless so we have even less basis for trusting claims that a match has been found.

    The third problem is that the way they maintain data on the National DNA database (NDNAD) is alongside the plaintext personal identifiers of the owner (Name and Address). This allows corrupt insiders to track individuals whose dna appears in various different places, to perform illegal searches on highly sensitive genetic implications arising from the sample data and to store that secondary data (albeit illegally) in a "profile" created for the individual.

    The fourth problem is that once on the database - even if only because you submitted a voluntary sample to eliminate yourself from a "sweep" - you cannot remove your data.

    All the above are prerequisites for totalitarian abuse. (For example the selection of individuals who have a genetic tendency to aggressive dissent - if ever we discover such markers - could be easily identified for "special treatment")

    Granted we don't (yet) believe our present government is inclined to abuse the data to that extent, but governments are inherently inclined to abuse all the power they can get their hands on, so it is no more than prudent to ensure that they can't get their hands on this particular power.

    None of which need prevent the full and voluntary registration of all citizens on the NDNAD. I've tried to describe how we could square this circle in my paper on ID Cards.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Framing and evasion

    Paul hit the same thought I did. We'll be moving into an age when you have to incinerate your nail clippings to stop the witch doctors stealing them from the trash and using the material connection to wreak harm upon you, aka, dropping them at a scene of their crime. Hairdressers are the new alibi. If nothing else, it's a great way to waste police time. "There were DNA traces from *how* many people in the safe?!"

    [makes notes for next "modern conspiracy" RPG /geek]

  15. Richard Speight

    And His Toniness?

    And His Toniness? Did he leave behind a DNA swab when he was recently question by Her Majesty's Constabulary? After all, he's innocent. So far...

  16. gaz

    who's biting

    what's the big problem?

    When I read that I thought someone's going fishing.

  17. Igor Mozolevsky

    Re: What;s the big problem? Posted Friday 15th June 2007 13:17 GMT RE: What's the big problem

    >Personally, I don't know what all the fuss is about? As a law abiding citizen I have

    >nothing to hide and can only see positives from a full DNA database. I’d hope it

    >would speed up law enforcement’s efforts to get dangerous criminals off the streets.

    >What are people trying to protect?

    You are travelling on a bus in the morning to work and deposit a fair few DNA samples whilst you're sitting down... You reach for a handle bar to lift yourself off a seat, and notice that your fingers touched some viscous dark red substance...

    Later on in the evening the police bash your door in and arrest you on the suspicion of attempted murder, as it turns out that at some point before you sat in the seat there was a fight and some guy got stabbed. Having recovered your DNA from the scene and your fingerprints from the bood stain (remember the dark brown substance?) the police deduced that you were involved in the incident. Now they have a cause to turn your home upside down, detain you for questioning, drag you to the court for remand, and basically turn your life inside out...

    On the plus side, it'll keep you away from posting nonsense here!..

  18. Alexander Hanff

    Do you feel lucky punk?

    If the police can shoot an unarmed man 8 times in the head at point blank range for carrying a backpack and then get rewarded with an all expenses paid holiday with their families, how safe do you feel if your [OMGITSUNDISPUTABLEEVIDENCE] DNA is found at the scene of a serious/terrorist crime scene?

    Do you feel lucky?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All I want for Christmas is my two front teath...

    "I can see "Anon" has already been given a good kicking for his naivete but I don't think you'll have changed his mind."

    I accept that sometime people are in a shit mood/bad attitude and I will end up in the Radcliffe ITU (have you never been angry? I have, people do that sometimes and I should have been smart enough to defuse it). BUT I want the controls in place to protect me in case I'm not smart enough.

    I'd rather they only keep DNA samples from people that are known criminals, same as fingerprint, photographs and everything else. Criminal first, records later. Likely hood of criminality results in monitoring, not being British results in monitoring.

    Otherwise we're accepting that there is the 'monitoring class' and the 'monitored class' and now people are no longer equal.

  20. Chris Cartledge

    DNA does identify

    If Britain is to have a comprehensive identity database, as our leaders think necessary, then basing it on DNA rather than identity cards seems sensible to me.

  21. Graham Marsden

    DNA does more than identify...

    Chris Cartledge:

    I suggest you think about whether what our leaders deem "necessary" is actually either needed or desirable (let alone really feasible).

    You could also try watching the film GATTACA and ask yourself if that's the society you'd like to live in.

  22. Enno

    the real danger...

    Lovely article in New Scientist a few months ago about the nature of genetic diversity in the British Isles. It seems as 90% of the populace has been largely trapped on the islands until relatively recent times (about when the modern jetliner brought travel down to the price all of us could afford) that there is enough genetic overlap in the population that as few as 15k samples and new techniques for tracking genes across family trees will allow police a good chance of determining family name of a random offender who is not (yet) in the database... maybe not enough for court, but likely enough for a search/questioning? In fact, the only people who escape that net are the recent arrivals whose genes will not have spread far enough through the populace to be present in the 15k samples. Of course the sample set is already much larger and growing daily...

    But still, lovely thought. Plod at the door: "excuse me sir, someone with your name committed a murder last night. Where were you at 9pm sir?" Adieu presumption of innocence. We barely knew you...

  23. George Johnson

    Ever considered...

    ..that maybe "Anon" has just put that there to get a rise?

    On a lighter note, you know that the Government will simply ride rough-shod over anything that the intelligent minority try to argue with them on. The best you can do it stop taking the bait from pillocks like Anon and get out and "light some fires" under people, getting 'em talking and maybe the minority will stand a chance of becoming the majority, before we all become like Mr Smith from "that" book!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: What's the big problem

    Look at the privacy issues with european policing and databases. If they're having that much trouble implementing secure and verifiable DBs shared by different countries, what do you think will happen when other nations go down this road?

    Also, how long does DNA evidence 'live' for? If I get into a cab I'll probably leave some skin flakes behind - short life span - and some follicles - longer lifespan. Someone stabs a cabbie, and you could have a thousand suspects - but I'd be one of them because I'd been in the cab. There's no real timestamping with DNA, bar unreliable degradation (in short, rotting), which varies depoedning on material and environment so much as to be utterly unreliable - yet someone will no doubt try to prosecute with it at this rate!

    Finally, if you're an innocent man, brought in and questioned, and you clear your name verifiably, what right do the police have to take and store your DNA? Effectively any crime that crosses the path of your DNA trail will then make you a suspect again...

    As one astute poster put it, police should be using hard evidence to solve crimes, not looking for quick fix answers that do more to put you on file than resolve things.

    Obviously if this was a case of skin under fingernails or a murdered person, then it'd be a bit different, but the most important thing now is to hammer out ethical, moral, and logical implications of any such database BEFORE it's implemented!

This topic is closed for new posts.