Sweden Considers Making DNA Donated Purely For Medical Research Available To Police And Insurance Companies
from the so-what-if-we-promised-we-wouldn't? dept
When it comes to biometrics, you really can't beat DNA. You can always erase your fingerprints, or wear contact lenses to fool iris scanners, but there's no way of changing all your DNA enough to make it unrecognizable (even with the new CRISPR technique). Couple that with the fact that we are shedding DNA everywhere we go -- leaving tell-tale markers on everything we touch -- and you have the perfect surveillance mechanism. That's why earlier UK plans to give police access to medical databases are problematic, to say nothing of Kuwait's mandatory DNA database for all citizens, residents and visitors. Now Rick Falkvinge has written a post about troubling moves in Sweden:
Since 1975, Sweden has taken a DNA sample from all newborns for medical research purposes, and asked parents’ consent to do so for this research purpose. This means that over time, Sweden has built the world's most comprehensive DNA database over everybody under 43 years of age. But now, politicians are considering opening up this research-only DNA database to law enforcement and private insurance companies.
As Falkvinge points out, this is not just a betrayal of a trust, it is totally counterproductive:
This is, of course, an outrageous and audacious breach of contract with the parents who were promised the sample would be used only for the good of humanity in terms of medical research. The instant there's a mere suspicion that this will be used against the sampled newborn in the future -- as is the case now -- instead of being used for the good of humanity as a whole, people won't provide the DNA database with more samples, or at least not enough samples to provide researchable coverage.
The risk that Sweden might proceed down this road is also a reminder that once such huge databases are created, it is almost inevitable that one day someone will come along and say: "since we have this information, surely nobody could object to it being used to catch terrorists/pedophiles/rapists etc. etc." And as the news from Sweden shows, initial promises that such sensitive data will only be used for research are worthless, since they can always be revoked later on, and there is no easy way of removing the data once it is on the database.