Kuwait Creating Mandatory DNA Database Of All Citizens, Residents -- And Visitors

from the makes-you-want-to-spit dept

A growing number of articles on Techdirt attests to the fact that the use of DNA is becoming commonplace in many fields, thanks to the continuing drop in the costs of gathering and analyzing genetic material. As those costs fall, of course, so the temptation to roll out the use of DNA more widely increases. It looks like Kuwait has the dubious honor of being the first nation to require everyone's DNA -- including that of visitors to the country. The Kuwait Times has a frighteningly matter-of-fact article about the plan, which is currently being put into operation. Here's how the DNA will be gathered:

Collecting samples from citizens will be done by various mobile centers that will be moved according to a special plan amongst government establishments and bodies to collect samples from citizens in the offices they work in. In addition, fixed centers will be established at the interior ministry and citizen services centers to allow citizens give samples while doing various transactions.
Those who are not citizens of Kuwait will be sampled when they apply for residence permits:
Collection will done on issuing or renewing residency visas through medical examinations done by the health ministry for new residency visas and through the criminal evidence department on renewing them.
As for common-or-garden visitors to the country:
Collection will be done at a special center at Kuwait International Airport, where in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Department, airlines and embassies, visitors will be advised on their rights and duties towards the DNA law.
"Rights and duties" basically means: "no DNA, no way Kuwait", since the article says elsewhere:
the test will be mandatory for visitors
The DNA will not be used for medical purposes, such as checking for genetic markers of disease, which will avoid issues of whether people should be told about their predisposition to possibly serious illnesses. Nor will the DNA database be used for "lineage or genealogical reasons." That's an important point: a complete nation's DNA would throw up many unexpected paternity and maternity results, which could have massive negative effects on the families concerned. It's precisely those kinds of practical and ethical issues that advocates of wider DNA sampling and testing need to address, but rarely do.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 6:49am

    Will they collect the DNA of diplomatic officials such as ambassadors and CIA station agents? If so, that could be a problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 6:59am

    I cant wait for a mass of new, stupid, and elaborate schemes by people to abuse the DNA database by say planting peoples DNA at crime scenes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 7:11am

    Scratch Kuwait off my list of must see places...

    ...not that it was on my list.

    But wow! I can guarantee the NSA will be asking for a feed of this data for all Americans who visit Kuwait.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 7:12am

    Re:

    A phlebotomist could make a good side income selling samples.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    TechDescartes (profile), Jan 27th, 2016 @ 7:14am

    Yet

    The DNA will not be used for medical purposes, such as checking for genetic markers of disease, which will avoid issues of whether people should be told about their predisposition to possibly serious illnesses. Nor will the DNA database be used for "lineage or genealogical reasons."
    Followed by the unwritten word "yet": "It won't be used for these purposes...yet."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Howard, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 7:37am

    Re: Scratch Kuwait off my list of must see places...

    Yeah, looks like I'm holidaying in Ibiza again this year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Jan 27th, 2016 @ 7:43am

    Function creep

    The DNA will not be used for medical purposes, such as checking for genetic markers of disease, which will avoid issues of whether people should be told about their predisposition to possibly serious illnesses. Nor will the DNA database be used for "lineage or genealogical reasons."

    Oh, maybe not initially, but we've all seen function creep before.

    Also, they neglected to list "ethnic cleansing"--an oversight, no doubt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 7:54am

    Re: Function creep

    When I was more active on G+ I was friendly with a woman who worked for a company taking DNA tests to help establish people's ethnic roots.

    One day she posted a snarky comment in which she ROFL'ed over some poor racist chump who'd gone in to establish his pure lily-white credentials only to be told his great-granddad was of African origin. Apparently he was really freaked out about it. So... RE: ethnic cleansing, be careful what you wish for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 7:57am

    Re: Scratch Kuwait off my list of must see places...

    I don't think the NSA will limit it to just Americans...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 8:08am

    Add Kuwait to the list of places that I won't be visiting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 8:21am

    Why exactly is using it for security purposes considered better than using it for medical purposes?

    The former has demonstrated consistent false positives even with limited sample sizes, while the only argument I've ever heard for the latter being bad is whether we should tell people about potential illnesses, which can be solved instantly by simply asking them whether they want to be told during the collection process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re: Function creep

    Wait till those 'racist' creeps find out we all came from Africa, around 3.2 million years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 8:28am

    Bill Gates eugenics INC

    bill gates foundation will open a 100 billion research lab on
    "selective sterilization of human cattle via DNA-aware vaccines or DNA-aware flu/moskitos"
    in Kuwait

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: Function creep

    I highly doubt that a DNA test can specifically tell the ethnic roots of an ancestor down to the generational level.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    mtroute, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Function creep

    the most troubling part of this post, your friendly acquaintance ROFL about private health matters that clearly she is supposed to keep confidential to some rando on the internet...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 9:20am

    Test accuracy

    ... and whey they come to extradite me (me never having visited Kuwait) because my twin brother committed the crime of not wearing a hijab while commenting on the policies of the Emir regarding the accuracy of Muslim doctrine ...

    I'm sure my lawyer will be able to convince the court that the accuracy of the DNA test they used was too low, and I'll be out and free after only 5 or so years and only a few jailhouse beatings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 27th, 2016 @ 9:35am

    Re: Yet

    Indeed. Not that there is any racial profiling in the world nowadays, no?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    radix (profile), Jan 27th, 2016 @ 9:57am

    Re: Yet

    I'm surprised at how dismissive Glyn was at this clause.
    Once the data is there, all it takes is access to connect all the dots. That's exactly why mass collection is so dangerous in the first place. Once the government/hackers/anybody has this, it's analysis and release can only be delayed, not stopped forever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 27th, 2016 @ 10:11am

    Sci Fi Dystopian Nightmare

    This may be somewhat off topic, but . . .

    Is the world quickly becoming worse than the worst fiction?

    Example, the movie GATTACA.

    Similarly, Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a guide. But that warning could surprisingly apply to the US. Continuous never ending war. Ubiquitous surveillance. Just wait until all TVs have built in webcams for your live chat convenience. The government seems to all but control the media.

    How soon before the US mandates DNA collection?

    Could it really happen?

    Yes. Bad things have happened in history. Things people didn't ask for. They were just born into a world that was bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 11:14am

    Re: Sci Fi Dystopian Nightmare

    --Example, the movie GATTACA.

    Spoiler Alert

    For those who have not seen it:
    DNA determines everything about your life. Your job, your social status, who you date, everything is determined by your DNA.

    Got bad DNA? Your hired, now take this broom and clean up after all these undesirables!

    I have no doubt, if the data exists it will be abused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Mark Wing, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 2:02pm

    "Welcome to Kuwait, may I take your blood?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Rekrul, Jan 27th, 2016 @ 5:20pm

    Give it a few years and doctors in the U.S. will be required to take a DNA sample at birth. The government will require DNA sample data on your driver's license/ID.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    nasch (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Function creep

    the most troubling part of this post, your friendly acquaintance ROFL about private health matters that clearly she is supposed to keep confidential to some rando on the internet...

    As long as nobody is identified, I don't think it's an issue. My wife, for example, tells me about her patients without naming them. If she told me a name it would be a HIPAA violation (even just mentioning that a particular person is her patient), but she can tell me anecdotes about patients without identifying them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    nasch (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 8:07am

    Re: Test accuracy

    my twin brother committed the crime of not wearing a hijab

    The hijab is worn by women.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijab

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    tqk (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Test accuracy

    my twin brother committed the crime of not wearing a hijab

    The hijab is worn by women.

    True, and females can have twin brothers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    tqk (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 11:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Test accuracy

    And, their twin brother would wear an hijab if he were transsexual. I concede your point, as obviously transsexuality is likely illegal (at least) in Muslim countries. :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 11:10am

    Big Brother is comi... It's here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    nasch (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Test accuracy

    I concede your point, as obviously transsexuality is likely illegal (at least) in Muslim countries. :-)

    Or maybe it just doesn't happen, kind of like how there are no gay people in Iran.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-483746/We-dont-gays-Iran-Iranian-president-tells-Ivy-Le ague-audience.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    tqk (profile), Jan 28th, 2016 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Sci Fi Dystopian Nightmare

    Spoiler Alert

    It's worth noting that though Gattaca showed gov't doing all those horrible things by abusing technology, smart and determined people were still able to get around them and win out in the end. Doing so even changed the opinions of some who were at first strongly supportive of the evil use of technology.

    Those people you thought you were protecting by misusing tech. may even be the ones most determined to make it fail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Stephen, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 3:49pm

    So Why Are They Collecting All That DNA?

    So just why IS Kuwait collecting all that DNA? (from the kuwaittimes site)
    ...in order to fight crime and terrorism.
    (So terrorism isn't a crime in Kuwait? I digress...)

    That sounds like the sort of boilerplate reason one can foresee other countries invoking when--not "if", "when"--they decide to follow in Kuwait's pioneering footsteps, as they surely will. It's only a matter of time.

    In fact I'm surprised it hasn't happened in that home of the licence plate reader, America, already. After all, they're already collecting the fingerprints of anyone who enters the country. Plus stingrays are in common use by law enforcement agencies and the NSA loves building haystacks of phone and cyber data.

    Will a DNA haystack be next?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Stephen, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Sci Fi Dystopian Nightmare

    It's worth noting that though Gattaca showed gov't doing all those horrible things by abusing technology, smart and determined people were still able to get around them and win out in the end.
    DNA collection wasn't mandatory in Gattaca's world, as shown by the fact that when the FBI collected that eyelash of Ethan Hawke's character they were not able to ID it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Stephen, Jan 28th, 2016 @ 4:34pm

    Re:

    Not to mention visiting heads of state.

    One also has to wonder whether the Kuwaiti royal family and government ministers will also be expected to hand in their DNA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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