Dutch Chief Of Police Suggests National DNA-Database For All Citizens

from the bad-idea-of-the-day dept

The chief of police of the greater Rotterdam area has called for the creation of a DNA-database for all 16.6 million Dutch citizens. There is already a DNA-database in existence, but it only contains the DNA of 11,000 people since the policy is to only take DNA from people sentenced to prison for at least four years.

According to the chief of police the privacy of civilians is not as important as tracking down criminals, stating that society is "too careful" and that "if you want to make the world safer, there's a price to pay." In a statement released later he added that safety is partly paid for by reducing privacy.

Of course, one could argue that it's not the privacy-concerned people being "too careful," but that there are some people that are so obsessed with security that they're willing to have others pay the price in giving up their privacy. Such a database will not prevent crime, since most crimes don't originate from rational risk-calculation. Any errors in the database could also have disastrous effects on people's lives in the case of a mistaken identity for instance, not to mention the implications of potential function creep. It really is a big price to pay for a small piece of security in one of the safest places in the world.

After a few hours of outrage from civilians and politicians, the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security released a statement that they do not support the plan and stated that it was not the first time such ideas have been suggested. It is probably not the last time, either.

Filed Under: dna, netherlands, privacy

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  1. icon
    PrometheeFeu (profile), 15 Mar 2011 @ 11:47am

    OK, first of all, you can't really plant evidence based upon a DNA database. They don't store a little blood sample. What they do is test for a number of genetic markers (which at least for now are not known to correlate with any expressed traits) and then they store the absence or presence of each marker in a database. In order to plant evidence based upon that database, they would have to genetically engineer something to match the same markers. That's not easy to do which means there would be a paper trail a mile long. At which point, you could during your trial request that some non-stored markers also be tested to exonerate you.

    In all honesty, I don't see the privacy implications. This can actually only be used for the purposes of identifying you. Yes, there is the remote chance that in the future the selected markers will end up being indicative of some disease we want to keep private, but that seems to be a relatively small risk. The cost of collecting and testing DNA from the environment makes it impractical to implement surveillance on a large scale. So honestly, I am not sure how the government could use such a system in any sort of a way that would expose anything I might want to keep quiet unless it actually was something bad. If someone presents a viable scenario where actual privacy might be violated, I would be very interested.

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