back to article Citizen's panels to put DNA database under microscope

The government is bankrolling a massive “citizen’s inquiry” that will see its DNA database policies scrutinised by panels of “ordinary” people, including criminals and youngsters, instead of scientists and legal professionals. The process, due to report in the spring, is being led by the Human Genetics Commission and will be …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
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    Lets start at the very beginning

    If you are going to have a genuine and worthwhile citizens enquiry, it has to start by asking citizens (all of them, not just 30 of them) to vote on WHAT the enquiry will do, and how it will do it.

    This sounds more like intentional whitewash.

  2. Inspector_Morse

    OK - How do I volunteer?

    Much as I despise this government, this actually sounds like a good plan. I'd like to be involved. But, how?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other Backers...

    So basically, one of these fabled 'other backers' could in fact be Channel4 who will fund with the proviso they can edit an evening's entertainment out of it?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Informed decision making?

    It'll never catch on.

  5. Matt


    I thought the idea was for universal suffrage, not just a few people who've been brain washed by the government.

  6. Harry Stottle

    @ Inspector Morse

    Moi aussi.

    I suspect the panel will be presented with those who support universal registration and those who oppose it. There are some of us who think we can have our cake and eat it.

    In particular I want the chance to make the case for allowing and even encouraging VOLUNTARY Universal registration on the DNA database but ONLY under the following conditions which should be supervised by a JURY not a judge or politician:

    • Data should be collected and stored anonymously (except for convicted criminals)

    • Compulsion should apply only where a serious crime has been committed

    • Invite, encourage and reward voluntary registration

    • Strict audited & controlled access rules to actual identity through Identity Escrow

    • Permit withdrawal of DNA Profile at any time for any reason unless associated with crime

    the detailed argument for which is available here:

  7. Pete James


    Another one of those cracking ideas from this administration. Let's get a public coffee morning going and act on their recommendations. Repeat the mantra of it being representative of the UK Public. Quietly nobble it via nicely weighted questions. Then, after the restrictive and arguably illegal legislation comes down upon us from this farcical idea and everyone gets very uncomfortable about it all just say "But YOU agreed with it!"

  8. Steve Browne


    The Nuffield institute, a well respected research organisation has already investigated this and dismissed most of the government claims about the value of the DNA database.

    The Information Commissioner has cautioned that we are sleep walking into a surveillance society and that we need to be better informed about what the government is doing.

    The government itself has threatened to derogate from the ECHR and its OWN legislation to implement the changes it wants.

    So, is this the result ? Wait a few months, let the row die down, make as though you are listening and carry on with what you first thought of after setting up some diversions to deflect attention.

  9. Spleen

    Quick survey

    Politiicans and other worthies call for a national debate on something every few weeks. Hands up anyone who has ever taken part in a "national debate", that is, participated in something other than the usual amount of Internet threads and pub arguments because a politician said they should. I'm guessing no-one.

    And hands up who's ever been on a "citizen's panel" or similar. I'm guessing no-one again, given that El Reg's demographic a) probably has a job b) probably has a life and c) is not the kind of mental that writes letters to the Sun.

  10. Keith T
    Thumb Up

    Can't keep DNA secret anyways, we shed it constantly

    Our DNA sequences are impossible to keep secret from government (or anyone else) anyways. Our DNA is on the clothes we wear, the cups we use, and the paper products we discard.

    The problem arises because forensic DNA matching does not match the entirety of the DNA, it is really a spot check of the size of various segments. There can be false positive matches.

    The testing companies say the odds of a false positive are 1 in 1,000,000,000 to something like 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000. For example, identical twins would totally match. But also, we have isolated villages in northern Canada where populations of a few hundred people are descended for 3 or 4 people who created the community 200 years ago. I can imagine there being false positives there. (Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba is an example.)

    The problem is, do DNA analysis matching techniques sometimes cause false positives, where the wrong person is identified. With databases where only a portion of the population is recorded, this could happen and nobody would know.

    It would be much safer for all to have a universal database of all residents and visitors to be in the database.

    That way, if there are (say) 7 people in the UK with DNA that matches, all 7 will show up, rather than just the one for the person with the previous conviction. The police will realize they need to do more investigation, rather than jumping to conclusions.

    That way any frailities of the technique, false positives, etc., will quickly become obvious.

  11. Graham Marsden
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    What's the betting...

    ... this will turn into another Government "consultation" where the whole thing is rigged with biased information and spin control to try to force/ coerce/ baffle people into agreeing with the Government's side, whilst the opposition are marginalised and suppressed.

    And even if people decide they *don't* agree with the Government, they'll find a way of spinning it so they can ignore the results!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    ... another Focus Group!

    How will a group of people that are:

    a) Ignorant of the subject

    b) Have no grounding or education in the matter

    to be of any use or benefit in making any decisions!?!

    I'd much prefer to see an open and transparent discussion of this matter take place in the public domain that is headed up by a group people that already have a grounding and firm understanding of the issues at hand.

    No Politicians should be permitted to get involved with this discussion (since they are all lying scum).

    Involving a group of handpicked grannies is just another example of stupid New Labour methods of getting their own while making it look like their being democrappic.

  13. Alex
    Paris Hilton

    What is a...

    ...criminal official? oO

    "Each panel will be advised by ten “experts” from different sides of the debate, including scientists, academics and law enforcement and >>criminal officials<<,"

  14. Etienne

    safeguards & real-world experimental procedures

    Keith T has a good point: As a safeguard the number (not identity) of matches for all searches against the database should be made public record. That way Judges and Juries will be able to see for themselves whether multiple hits crop up or not.

    Also the odds of a "1 in 1,000,000,000 [...]" are so large they are surly be derived theoretically not statistically from real trials. In that case is there an assumption of perfectly collected samples, perfect lab equipment and perfectly carried out experimental procedures? Surly in the real world these carry a far greater risk of producing bad results?

  15. Etienne
    Thumb Up

    Voting by the full population is best kept for elections

    This actually seems like a great idea: I'd much rather have a report by a few ordinary people as long a they have taken the time to get *properly informed*. The alternative of having the whole country vote based on what they've had time to read in their newspaper or half-catch from a ratings-hungry TV documentary seems feeble.

    Voting by the full population is best kept for elections; otherwise we'd all have to spend all out time trying to understand the gory details of every issue. Not just the titillating parts the media pre-digest and package up for us.

    Clearly the selection of a subset of "ordinary" people is subject to abuse, as is the selection of the material and experts presented to them. But still there are clear parallels with the Jury system which has severed us well for centuries and hasn't been bettered.

  16. Paul Stimpson
    Dead Vulture

    Here we go again...

    Another "consultation" which came into being so quietly that we didn't notice. "Ordinary" people selected and no chance for anyone with an interest to be involved (after all, they're activists or anarchists and probably wouldn't vote in the "right" way.) The panels "educated" on the issues before reaching a conclusion.

    If the result doesn't go the Government's way then do you really expect them to honour it? They know better and will act for "our own good." My friend was part of an environmental consultation the almost-unanimous conclusion of which was that the growing or release of GM crops should be totally banned. We all know how much the Government listened to that one...

    Just more fake "democracy"

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A title is required.

    @OK - How do I volunteer?

    Join the labour party? Give Peter Hain a job?

    @Can't keep DNA secret anyways..

    don't know how it is for you colonials but over here the plan is to make everyone accountable for every last piece of their DNA. If some of your DNA is found at a crime scene you have to prove yourself innocent.

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