Disillusioned Discordian


Our DNA is not the property of the state
September 5, 2007, 9:34 am
Filed under: Current Affairs, ID Cards / Surveillance

Lord Justice Sedley has told the BBC that he would like to see every citizen be legally forced to hand over their genetic information to the state. The DNA database in the UK is the largest of any country and there are certainly some benefits of having a database for criminals convicted of serious crimes. DNA is not a magic bullet for fighting crime however. Last year I was myself a victim of a GBH assault. Although a DNA match was found on the bottle that I was hit over the head with, it didn’t match the suspect. It took the police over a month to take my statement and they failed to arrest a suspect on the scene despite their being detained by members of the public. DNA databases are not a solution to bad police work. DNA contains a vast amount of genetic information about the make up of our bodies.

Aside from making people suspects (innocent or otherwise) by matching them to crime scenes it is also possible to identify genetic disorders from our DNA. Leaving aside the Nature/Nurture debate there is a reasonable  ( if somewhat reductionist) claim that certain character traits can also be influenced by our genetic make up. We have all read the stories about Fat Genes, Crime Genes etc.. etc.. Even if genetic information cannot revel our character traits, that may not prevent a future government or private company from making decisions based on this genetic information. Can we really trust the state with this sort of information about us? Would we want this information getting into the hands of insurance companies or marketing firms? Not wanted to over egg the pudding but we also have to consider how the DNA database could possibly be abused and used for the purposes of discrimination. Racial profiling for instance would be a relatively simple with such a database.  

Despite the risk that a DNA database maybe used for racial profiling or to identify those with a disposition to crime or addiction Sedley is claming that the current situation, in which a higher proportion of ethnic minorities is on the database is unacceptable. Hence why we should all be on it (to make it fair one presumes). If the DNA database isn’t a problem then why should it be a problem if more ethnic minorities are on it anyway? Rather than an issue with the DNA database itself this fact should make us look at police arrest behaviour and the socio-economic reasons that cause ethnic minorities to commit crime e.g. poor housing and poverty. A solution would be to look at the police arrest behaviour or to only keep DNA of those convicted of a crime.  Like the National ID card scheme these intrusive databases pose a serious risk to our liberty and place a huge amount of private and personal information into the hands of the state. As law-abiding citizens we should be defending our right to privacy.

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