Sunday, 24 February 2008

The subtle advance of the police state

The government has rejected demands for the introduction of a compulsory national DNA database, on the grounds that such a database "would raise significant practical and ethical issues". Senior police officers have also declared that they remain unconvinced of the need for such a database.

Of course, this is good news. The idea of compelling every British citizen to provide the police with a sample of their DNA, to be kept on file in perpetuity, is deeply sinister in itself, is a huge violation of our privacy and freedom, and is particularly unnerving when you consider the rather cavalier attitude that the government has shown towards the security of our personal records. Besides which, I think that a slippery slope argument is valid here: give the police a database of all our DNA, and it will make it that bit easier for the advocates of compulsory ID cards, and other authoritarian measures, to persuade the public to accept them.

But the news that the government will not (yet) be imposing a nationwide DNA database masks the very worrying fact that the police already have a vast DNA database. Because whenever anyone is arrested, the police take their DNA - and keep it. In 2001 the law was changed to allow the police to keep the DNA of people who had been acquitted, and they now have a database containing DNA samples from approximately 4 million people, hundreds of thousands of whom have never been convicted of any criminal offence. Per head of population, this is by far the largest such database in the world.

Other manifestations of a burgeoning police state are all around us, most notably the government's plan to force us all to carry ID cards, which the Home Office minister Liam Byrne
assures us "will soon become part of the fabric of British life" and "another great British institution without which modern life...would be quite unthinkable". I don't know about you, but I don't find that possibility to be all that alluring. But that's the way the future is looking: databases and ID cards for all.


Homophobic Horse said...

OT: Ronbo kills himself to attract attention to his blog. My money is on it being a hoax.

Fulham Reactionary said...

If true, that's very sad.

Like you, I'm not entirely sure, though. As far as I can see, the only evidence is the blog post, and a death notice in the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, neither of which is conclusive. I guess we'll have to wait for some form of independent verification.

A lot of blogs seem to be reporting his death as fact, though, so perhaps I'm being overly sceptical...