U.K. DNA database by stealth

Jacqui Smith’s new plans erode principles of innocent until proven guilty to create a New Labour-style third way: innocentish

It is perhaps ironic that the home secretary should seem so hellbent on collecting the nation’s DNA while still reeling from the embarrassment of her husband‘s presumed attempts to spill his at the taxpayer’s expense. If it is irony then it is doubly so, as Smith is the minister charged with upholding the rule of law yet has such utter contempt for it and its principles. The EU court ruling stated very clearly that the DNA profiles and samples of the 850,000 innocent people currently on the database should be removed.

Smith’s response is to leave them on the DNA database for between six and 12 years. At best this is a childish kind of belligerent foot-dragging and at worst it is plain illegal. What is certain is that campaigners will challenge this, and once again Smith will be hauled into court.

The continued inclusion of innocent people‘s DNA on the database throws up several concerns. At a most basic level it flies in the face of our most natural notions of fairness. Why should some have their DNA profiles among the guilty and others not. The only reason provided so far is chance, a chance encounter with the police.

Secondly, Smith’s new regime leaves the innocent who have been cleared of charges of minor, non-violent crime on the database for six years, which erodes the principle of innocent until proven guilty and in classic New Labour fashion creates a third way, neither innocent or guilty but innocentish.

Read moreU.K. DNA database by stealth

Right to privacy broken by a quarter of UK’s public databases, says report

“Britain is now the most invasive surveillance state and the worst at protecting privacy of any western democracy.”


  • Rowntree Trust cites DNA database and ID register
  • Whitehall told 11 systems out of 46 must be scrapped


A man has his fingerprint scanned on a new biometric check at Heathrow. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

A quarter of all the largest public-sector database projects, including the ID cards register, are fundamentally flawed and clearly breach European data protection and rights laws, according to a report published today.

Claiming to be the most comprehensive map so far of Britain’s “database state”, the report says that 11 of the 46 biggest schemes, including the national DNA database and the Contactpoint index of all children in England, should be given a “red light” and immediately scrapped or redesigned.

The report, Database State (PDF) by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, says that more than half of Whitehall’s 46 databases and systems have significant problems with privacy or effectiveness, and could fall foul of a legal challenge.

Read moreRight to privacy broken by a quarter of UK’s public databases, says report

Why are we fingerprinting children?

“It’s odd that this drive towards fingerprinting children coincides with the government’s keenness to expand the national DNA database – we already have one of the largest in the world – with more than four million people on file, including nearly 1.1 million children.”

“Odd too that VeriCool is reported to be part of Anteon, an American company that is responsible for the training of interrogators at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.”


Schools claim it cuts costs and time – but the civil liberties implications are vast
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As voters express concern about surveillance technology, is it becoming second nature to the Facebook generation – used to publishing intimate details of their private lives on the worldwide web – who, in later life, may be less vociferous in their opposition to such schemes?

An increasing number of today’s schoolchildren are forgoing the humiliating daily name call of registration, and are instead having to “fingerswipe” in and out of class, or to give it its proper name: biometric registration. According to campaign group LeaveThemKidsAlone, schools have fingerprinted more than two million children this way, sometimes even without their parents’ consent. A statement on its website claims: “It’s part of an enormous softening-up exercise, targeting society’s most impressionable, so they’ll accept cradle-to-grave state snooping and control.”

Read moreWhy are we fingerprinting children?

Liberty groups unite to defend UK rights

“There has been a tide of government actions which have put expediency over justice time and time again. The British people wear their liberty like an old comfy suit, they are careless about it, but the mood is changing. Last year 80 per cent of people were in favour of ID cards, now 80 per cent are against. There’s a point of reflection that we are reaching, the communications database which is planned to collect every private text and phone call and petrol station receipt will create uproar.” – David Davis


Writers, pop stars, lawyers and politicians from across the party spectrum yesterday issued a call to arms. They joined the largest ever campaign across Britain to warn of the erosion of freedoms and the emergence of surveillance techniques

Police outside Parliament
A police cordon outside the Houses of Parliament in 2006. Liberty campaigners warn of a growing police state. Photograph: Adam Butler/AP

The government and the courts are collaborating in slicing away freedoms and pushing Britain to the brink of becoming a “database” police state, a series of sold-out conferences in eight British cities heard yesterday.

In a day of speeches and discussions, academics, politicians, lawyers, writers, journalists and pop stars joined civil liberty campaigners yesterday to issue a call to arms for Britons to defend their democratic rights.

More than 1,500 people, paying £35 a ticket, attended the Convention on Modern Liberty in Bloomsbury, central London, which was linked by video to parallel events in Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Cambridge. They heard from more than 80 speakers, including author Philip Pullman; musicians Brian Eno and Feargal Sharkey; journalists Fatima Bhutto, Andrew Gilligan, Nick Cohen and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger; politicians Lord Bingham and Dominic Grieve; a former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald; and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy.

In her speech Kennedy said she felt that fear was being used as a weapon to break down civil liberties. “There is a general feeling that in creating a climate of fear people have been writing a blank cheque to government. People feel the fear of terrorism is being used to take away a lot of rights.”

Read moreLiberty groups unite to defend UK rights

Government plans to keep DNA samples of innocent

DNA samples of innocent to be kept on file

Jacqui Smith
Home secretary Jacqui Smith: has not indicated whether DNA samples already obtained would be destroyed. Photo: Cathal McNaughton/PA

The government is planning to get around a European court ruling that condemned Britain’s retention of the DNA profiles of more than 800,000 innocent people by keeping the original samples used to create the database, the Guardian has learned.

A damning ruling last December criticised the “blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the UK’s current DNA database – which includes DNA from those never charged with an offence – and said the government had overstepped acceptable limits of storing data for crime detection.


Don’t miss:
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warns of surveillance culture (Times):
Richard Thomas told The Times that “creeping surveillance” in the public and private sectors had gone “too far, too fast” and risked undermining democracy.

Spy chief: We risk a police state (Telegraph):
Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state.


Last month the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said she would publish a white paper setting out “a more proportionate, fair and commonsense approach”, but she has not given any indication whether DNA samples already obtained would be destroyed. However, Home Office sources said the government, which was given three months to respond to the ruling, has “no plans” to destroy samples of DNA.

Read moreGovernment plans to keep DNA samples of innocent

Big Brother database a ‘terrifying’ assault on traditional freedoms

Plans condemned as the greatest threat to civil rights for decades

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has voiced his concern about the erosion of civil liberties
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has voiced his concern about the erosion of civil liberties

Sweeping new powers allowing personal information about every citizen to be handed over to government agencies faced condemnation yesterday amid warnings that Britain is experiencing the greatest threats to civil rights for decades.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the pressure group Liberty, warned that the laws, published yesterday, were among a string of measures that amounted to a “terrifying” assault on traditional freedoms.

Read moreBig Brother database a ‘terrifying’ assault on traditional freedoms

New Rule Expands DNA Collection to All People Arrested

Civil Rights Groups Assail Change


Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) advocates DNA collection at arrest or deportation. (2006 Photo By Melina Mara — The Washington Post)

Immigration and civil liberties groups condemned a new U.S. government policy to collect DNA samples from all noncitizens detained by authorities and all people arrested for federal crimes.

The new Justice Department rule, published Wednesday and effective Jan. 9, dramatically expands a federal law enforcement database of genetic identifiers, which is now limited to storing information about convicted criminals and arrestees from 13 states.

Congress authorized the expansion in 2005, citing the power of DNA as a tool in crime solving and prevention.

The FBI created its National DNA Index System in 1994 to store profiles of people convicted of serious violent crimes, such as rape and murder, but the system has been expanded repeatedly, first to include all convicted felons, then misdemeanants and state arrestees. The data bank contained more than 6.2 million samples as of August, and officials estimate that 61,000 cases have been solved or assisted using DNA.

The change could add as many as 1.2 million people a year to the national database, U.S. officials said. Supporters equate DNA collection to taking fingerprints or photographs at the time of booking.

Read moreNew Rule Expands DNA Collection to All People Arrested

DNA database: 17 judges, one ruling – and 857,000 records must be now wiped clear

  • Retention of unconvicted citizens’ samples criticised
  • Home secretary promises report on how to comply


The judges said DNA profiles could be used to identify relationships which amounted to an interference with their right to respect for their private lives. Photograph: Science photo library

The fingerprints and DNA samples of more than 857,000 innocent citizens who have been arrested or charged but never convicted of a criminal offence now face deletion from the national DNA database after a landmark ruling by the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

In one of their most strongly worded judgments in recent years, the unanimous ruling from the 17 judges, including a British judge, Nicolas Bratza, condemned the “blanket and indiscriminate” nature of the powers given to the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to retain the DNA samples and fingerprints of suspects who have been released or cleared.

The judges were highly critical of the fact that the DNA samples could be retained without time limit and regardless of the seriousness of the offence, or the age of the suspect.

The court said there was a particular risk that innocent people would be stigmatised because they were being treated in the same way as convicted criminals. The judges added that the fact DNA profiles could be used to identify family relationships between individuals, meant its indefinite retention also amounted to an interference with their right to respect for their private lives under the human rights convention.

The case provoked an expression of disappointment from the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and the promise that a working party, including senior police officials, will report back to Strasbourg by next March on how the government will comply with the judgment.

“The government mounted a robust defence before the court and I strongly believe DNA and fingerprints play an invaluable role in fighting crime and bringing people to justice. The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgment.”

Read moreDNA database: 17 judges, one ruling – and 857,000 records must be now wiped clear

New law to allow police to collect DNA in secret from teacups

MI5 and the police may be allowed to secretly collect genetic samples from items such as cigarette butts and teacups under new laws that could massively expand the national DNA database.

The powers would allow investigators to break in to suspects’ homes to collect DNA which could then be shared with foreign governments to check for links to crime and terrorism.

The new law, being discussed by Parliament, would mean the ‘stolen’ samples – thousands of which have already been taken by the security services – would be admissible in court and at a stroke hugely expand the Government’s controversial DNA database.


Concern: Minister Lord West wants data shared between governments

But human rights activists fear the new powers could lead to more innocent people having their DNA stored and, due to cross-contamination, being wrongly accused of crimes or terrorism.

The proposals, which are contained in the Counter-Terrorism Bill, were outlined last week by Security Minister Lord West in the wake of Labour’s unsuccessful attempt to introduce legislation to hold terror suspects for 42 days without charge.

Read moreNew law to allow police to collect DNA in secret from teacups

City uses DNA to fight dog poop

PETAH TIKVA, Israel (Reuters) – An Israeli city is using DNA analysis of dog droppings to reward and punish pet owners.

Under a six-month trial programme launched this week, the city of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, is asking dog owners to take their animal to a municipal veterinarian, who then swabs its mouth and collects DNA.

The city will use the DNA database it is building to match faeces to a registered dog and identify its owner.

Read moreCity uses DNA to fight dog poop