Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The National DNA Database

After last week´s latest government IT data embarrasment in which DNA profiles of dangerous criminals were ignored, questions have been raised with the politicians about the need for a national DNA database which would store the DNA profile of every UK resident, criminal or not.

At the suggestion of leading coppers who argue such a scheme would greatly increase crime detection rates, the government has bowed to popular pressure and will consider initiating such a scheme.

I am somewhat shocked. But who am I to argue?

Of course, this will be an enormous boost to the DNA profiling lab industry, which I assume (a guess, I admit) is awarded government contracts under its Private Finance Initiative. It it will increase the employment of highly-skilled lab technicians, IT technicians and generally benefit the economy as a whole as we become world-leaders in data storage technology and identifying our citizens ... oh, and, of course, I will feel much more secure on the streets

My somewhat delicate constitution had already received a bit of a jolt last week when I learned of the Children´s Information Sharing Index (henceforth IIS).

What a marvellous scheme! I won´t have to worry about Jaime and Kezia´s welfare so much, as I know the government is keeping an eye on them for me!

This database will record Jaime and Kezia´s ...

1. Name, date of birth and address.

2. An ID number.

3. Mum´s and dad´s names.

4. Our GP´s, health visitor´s, midwife´s, school nurseś cocial worker´s etc etc details.

5. School details

... and anything else considered relevant.

Who will supply and have access to this database ? The list is as long as my arm and I am pleased to see it includes everyone concerned with our children´s welfare. I´m very sad I was not picked up at school smoking a spliff and then sent to a Youth Correction Centre for the rest of my education. Now I know that if Jaime is one day picked up for underage drinking he will be classified as at risk and I will be appropriately admonished, classified as an inadequate parent and if I reoffend, the government will find him another parent.

Alan Johnson and Gordon Brown - I am very grateful for the concern you show my children - can´t I make this so much easier and volunteer all the information you require? Give me a long form with tickboxes and ¨Go to Section 6¨ navigation tools, and I´ll willingly fill out the 45 pages.

All this for a price of £224 million to set up and £41 million per year to run - a bargain!

I hear that you want to put our medical records on a central database as this would allow the polyclinic at our local supermarket to look at our medical records when we go shopping on Sunday morning (I admit I was somewhat cynical that the ASDA clinic would have access to my records - but I am reassured).

Now, if Jaime is caught smoking a spliff, the school can record it in the IIS, the police can pick him up and charge him with a drug offence, his DNA can be profiled, the magistrates can put him in a drug rehabilitation programme and a psychiatric problem can be put on his health record ... oh and he can be found a new parents through Social Services foster parents´ networks. I´m grateful.

Now I have a word of admonishment - all these multiple databases ... surely it´s a waste of money?

Can´t you integrate a national DNA database, IIS, the various NHS databases, Electoral Rolls, census data, your idea to issue all of us with ID cards, tax info., criminal records, Immigration and Nationality Directorate records etc etc into one big database? We would all be so much more secure and surely it would achieve vast economies of scale.


Note: the UK government has delayed the introduction of legislation for a national ID scheme until, at least, after the next election and yesterday, unsurprisingly, totally balked at the idea of a national DNA database. The government is being taken to the European Court of Human Rights for maintaining DNA profiles of people arrested but never convicted.

I will be questioning our consultant John, and possibly the Patients' Advisory and Liaison Service, as well as our GP, about our records when I next go back in April.


Dr Rant yesterday.

Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering, Universtity of Cambridge in February's British Journal of General Practice.

The No2Id campaign.

The Big Opt Out campaign - which explains how you can have your confidential medical records maintained by your GP or hospital without them being uploaded to the government´s central database.

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