11 December 2008

Last week we had profoundly good news on the abuse of human rights in the UK that we call the police's DNA database. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled unanimously that holding the DNA & fingerprint details of people that have no criminal record is a breach of their rights. The biometric data of about 4.5m people are held by the police in a national database and one in five of them does not have a current criminal record.

Personally I find this an affront to personal freedom - sure, if you've been convicted of a crime then you give up that freedom, but until that point our DNA & fingerprints must remain off the record.

The government maintains that DNA & fingerprint records are vital for catching criminals and state that 3500 matches are made each month. I do not dispute the value of such a database but I do dispute their statistics as they are not relevant - what proportion of those 3500 monthly matches are:

a) perpetrators of the crime, as opposed to innocent people using the same environment.

b) from the 1/5 of the database who have no criminal record - I bet it is not even 1/50th.

c) solving crimes that couldn't be otherwise solved.

They also leave out the number of failed checks/tests they actually do each month to get 3500 matches. The statistics are worthless - they're just a device designed to enable this government's ideal of a police state. Yes, there will be some people that get away with crime because of this, but the end does not justify the means. Freedom and maintaining human rights does come at a very real cost, but it is one that we must pay: simply because a few people offend because they can get away with it does not mean that we should infringe everyone's rights to privacy. If someone does get away with it they will most likely be caught the next time or the time after that - because typically people don't just offend just once, and any DNA found in previous crime-scenes (of unknown origin) is stored for future cross-reference anyway - making this entire debate pointless.

The problem is that the police, like all public departments, are target driven and statistical goals always distort the vision & values of an organisation.

So I am thankful that the government's infringement upon our freedom (in the name of our protection) has been halted on this front for now. Haven't we seen this all before anyway? In the name of protection the Republic allows Senator Palpatine to create an army which then goes on to subjugate the galaxy into the new Emperor Palpatine's empire...

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