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Human Rights Court Calls UK DNA Database a 'Breach of Rights' 206

psmears writes "Describing a judgment that is likely to rein in the scope of the UK DNA database, where at present the DNA of those arrested by the police is kept permanently (even if the people concerned are never convicted, or even charged), the BBC reports that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that keeping such people's DNA in the database 'could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society.'" Reader megla adds a link to the full text of the judgement.
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Human Rights Court Calls UK DNA Database a 'Breach of Rights'

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  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @04:48PM (#25994143)

    How about "selling your DNA to insurance companies"?

    Or in case of Great Britain - losing a USB stick with all your private data _and_ DNA data.

  • Not a "UK" Database (Score:2, Informative)

    by CodeArtisan ( 795142 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:00PM (#25994299)
    The title of the article is a little misleading as it doesn't apply to all of the UK.

    From TFA:

    Scotland already destroys DNA samples taken during criminal investigations from people who are not charged or who are later acquitted of alleged offences.

  • by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:00PM (#25994307)
    The Europian court of human rights is part of the Council of Europe [], not the EU. They share a flag, and IIRC all EU members are also members of the Council, but there are a whole load of other countries in the council of Europe besides the 26 EU member states.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:04PM (#25994357)

    It is probably worth noting that DNA evidence can be wrong... There have been numerous cases in which a false positive led to someone being wrongly imprisoned. The probability of false positives is significantly higher than most people realize as well. This mostly has to do with the fact that they only sequence part of your DNA -- the parts most likely to differ from one person to the next. This introduces a statistical error rate.

    It's a dirty little secret.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:19PM (#25994537)

    The UK signed the European Human Rights convention and those accepted the authority of the European Court of Human Rights.

  • by jabithew ( 1340853 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:23PM (#25994609)

    Quite. There were accusations that the Met made an unusually large number of uncharged arrests at Notting Hill this year so they could build up a profile of black Londoners.

    (Notes for Americans and other foreigners; the Met=the London police force which has a history of racism and locking up opposition MPs. The Notting Hill Carnival is the largest Afro-Caribbean festival in the UK)

  • by LingNoi ( 1066278 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:25PM (#25994645) []

    Google it yourself next time [].. or is that too difficult for you?

  • MP (Score:3, Informative)

    by BeerCat ( 685972 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:31PM (#25994723) Homepage

    MP = Member of Parliament (in other words, one of the UK's elected representatives in Parliament - much like a Senator in the US)

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:35PM (#25994757)

    A major problem starting to crop up is that some areas can't afford to keep the people incarcerated as tax income drops and municipalities go bankrupt.

    Having 2% of your population incarcerated starts to be a financial drain. Especially as federal laws are enforced regarding their living conditions and medical care.

    Our dumb (tm) drug laws are largely responsible or this. However, large privately run prison corporations are starting to be self perpetuating (even backing new laws that require prison time with lobby money - and yup-- large contributors to keep drugs illegal). (e.g.) []

    Oh.. and I'd bet dollars to donuts that the DNA database will not be flushed. They'll find some way to keep it- including just ignoring the ruling.

  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:38PM (#25994783)

    That'd be Member of Parliament [] to all those not familiar with parliamentary nomenclature. So the Home Secretary siccing the police to raid an opposition party member's offices might be vaguely analogous to the Bush Administration abusing its official powers to bully US Attorneys into resigning [] for not kowtowing to the party line. I.e., a power freak seeing how far they can stretch their authority and get away with it.


  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:43PM (#25994831)

    I really did, I tried so hard to think up an insightful comment in response to this story but all that I could do was sit giggling to myself at how upset Jacqui Smith is over this and how she aint gonna sleep well tonight.

    For those that don't know, Jacqui Smith has been involved in or is responsible for:
    - UK ID card scheme where every citizen has a biometric ID card
    - A national database of every single child's details
    - 42 days of detention without trial for terror suspects
    - This very DNA database of even innocent people
    - Plans for a scheme to store all telephone call, text message and e-mail records
    - Massive nationwide CCTV surveillance programs
    - Silencing of political opponents by using heavy police force
    - Allowing local councils to use terrorist laws to spy on citizens to catch them for such offences as trying to get their kids into a specific school outside their catchment area or letting their dog foul in a public place
    - Creating a scheme for newspapers to put up wanted posters from CCTV images of people dropping litter

    There are plenty more but simply too many for me to remember all of them right now. This woman is evil and must be stopped, period. We can't put the blame on just her however because people like Gordon Brown have the power to stop her but aren't and opposition parties could be far, far more vocal about how evil this woman actually is and yet they're not.

    I'm pretty sure the lives of our grandparents here in the UK and the rest of the world weren't given on the beaches of Normandy, the fields of France and other places so that it would eventually be our own government that would rise up against us and begin to enforce the same level of dictatorship as seen in the many facist nations during World War II. The very fact Jacqui Smith is pushing for this kind of regime should make it the responsibility of everyone with the power to make a noise- politicians, media and so forth to stand up and refuse to accept this. It is the complacency and ignorance amongst the average joe on the street towards this type of thing that makes me understand now how over time evil totalitarian regimes can arise.

    I do not believe Britain will every reach the point Jacqui Smith is hoping thanks to the EU injecting at least a little bit of common sense into the situation as per this article but the very fact that she has been allowed to get this far is simply unacceptable in a modern, free society.

  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:56PM (#25995009) Homepage

    Not particularly, no. I don't really mind the government maintaining a DNA database


    I mean, what is the government going to do with my DNA? Clone me? Invade my privacy by finding out what diseases I'm vulnerable to?

    How about convict you of crimes you didn't do? Here's how it goes down.

    1. Some criminal who is not you, and whose DNA is not on file, commits a crime, and carelessly leaves behind some DNA.
    2. Police get the DNA, and run it against the DNA database, looking for a match. Yours matches. And yes, this can happen. I'll cover why below.
    3. You are charged with the crime. The jury is mightily impressed with the DNA evidence, and your lack of an alibi. Welcome to jail!

    It is a popular misconception that DNA tests uniquely identify people. That would be true (ignoring twins...) if they compared at enough positions. However, such tests are expensive. So what they actually do is compare at a few positions.

    This is not enough to uniquely identify you. It is enough to narrow the possibilities down to, in a good case, a handful of people. When that is combined with non-DNA evidence, it is almost certain.

    For instance, suppose you've got a woman raped, robbed, and murdered. Through traditional police methods, you find out that she was seen shortly before the crime arguing with her ex-boyfriend who was stalking her, and that she had a pizza delivered where the delivery man turned out to be a paroled serial rapist, and finally, a burglar had been known to be working the neighborhood at the time of the crime, and he had some of her jewelry when he was caught a few days later (but claims he found it on the ground and was never in her house).

    Do a DNA test on those three suspects and get a match on one, and you've got your criminal. Sure, there might be a dozen (or even hundreds or thousands, depending on the test you do) people in the world that match, but the chances that someone would have been identified as a suspect through non-DNA traditional police methods AND be one of those dozens (or hundreds...) are low.

    In other words, the proper way to use DNA testing is to use it in a Bayesian fashion with other evidence to seal the deal.

    Without safeguards in place to prevent misuse of the database (such as using it to pick suspects in lieu of finding suspects the old fashioned way), an incomplete DNA database is a major risk to your rights, if your DNA is included.

  • by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:58PM (#25995031)

    Would someone who knows please explain how the EU Court has jurisdiction over national laws? Has the UK (and other countries in the EU, for that matter) ceded its soverignity to the EU to such an extent that the EU acts as a Supreme Court? Is the EU as a whole like the Federal government is to the US states or Canadian provinces? I really do not know myself and am asking for a serious answer. Thanks.

    It's not an "EU court" it's part of the Council of Europe [], which whilst it share a flag with the EU is a separate body with different membership. When we signed the European charter of Human rights (this was soon after WW2 and IIRC it was largely written by British solicitors), we ceded any powers in that treaty to the ECoHR, after all that's how international treaties work.

  • by billsf ( 34378 ) <> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:59PM (#25995037) Homepage Journal

    This indeed is one of the best decisions of the EU, particularly in that it ends the whole biometric scam, at least for here. Since DNA and fingerprints are the most 'stable' biometric measures, all other methods, disproved over 100 years ago, would seem to be included. The ramifications of this are great from ending (real)ID cards to George Bush's false "War on Terror".

    This is real change. Funny it starts in Europe.

  • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Informative)

    by M-RES ( 653754 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @07:09PM (#25996017)

    Me too... DOH, I DO!!! :(

    And following the usual patterns of copying bad things from the states, police are to be issued with tasers over here too.

    Actually, they already have them, but only firearms officers (who receive the requisite training for handling all firearms that normal officers don't) can currently use them, but that's set to change soon.

    So expect to see deaths in police custody on the increase.

    In the usual fascist Home Secretary model, the current one Jacqui Smith is particularly vile. She's constantly 'disappointed' when her evil schemes to subjugate us are thwarted. First it was their defeated ID cards scheme, now this judgement.

    To get around this (the ID card/DNA debacle), she's currently trying to push new legislation through (hidden in another bill) to open up private information allowing every government department access to your records from another department. So the DVLA (Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Authority) will be able to gain access to your financial history, medical records, education history... anything. As will the police, benefits departments, you name it. Currently to do this it needs to be passed by parliamentary oversight, but the new legislation will allow this with the OK of a single minister on a whim. This government have a horrible track record for their inability to keep data safe, so this is a nightmare waiting to happen even forgetting the massive breach of rights.

    To top it all off, there's a clause in the bill which will allow it to be OK'd to pass this information to other non-governmental bodies (but fails to stipulate who) - scary huh!?

    The surveillance state was just a beginning, welcome to our new Stasi nation (now with added corporate sponsorship)

  • Not that much. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04, 2008 @11:33PM (#25998627)

    The UK uses the SGM+ system of DNA profiling which only looks at 13 markers in the genome plus gender. I can't imagine that that takes up *too* much space.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.