This Month’s Hot Topic: DNA

All you regular readers will recognize that DNA (and its collection and use) has become quite a hot topic on my blog of late.  For those of you coming late to the game, see Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2.

To add to the intrigue, there is a recent story from the BBC detailing a retired police superintendent claiming that police officers are making arrests solely to collect DNA.

He wrote: “It is now the norm to arrest offenders for everything if there is a power to do so.

“It is apparently understood by serving police officers that one of the reasons, if not the reason, for the change in practice is so that the DNA of the offender can be obtained: samples can be obtained after arrest but not if there is a report for summons.

“It matters not, of course, whether the arrest leads to no action, a caution or a charge, because the DNA is kept on the database anyway.”

It should be noted, of course, that the British criminal justice systems does vary from its American counterpart, and that there is not the same level of a “surveillance society” in the US as there is in the UK (though some would disagree).

I offer this story only as food for thought to those who are still undecided about their position on DNA collection and distribution.  As the database population process continues to automate, and databases begin to inform each other automatically, it will grow increasingly difficult to control one’s own data – even the data on their DNA.  As I’ve written elsewhere, this issue needs to be addressed head-on by both the politicians and the populous.  Without a direct debate, and reasoned decisions, we will quickly find ourselves in a place that no one wants to be.

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