This contemplation was inspired by an article in Wired. It concerned a hacker who (for
religious reasons) to give blood to The Man for their database.
Everyone convicted of a Felony (only?) is required to provide their DNA. I am OK with that.
Everyone in the military is required to provide DNA. OK, no problem.
Now consider this. A couple of years ago some fool blew himself (and a bunch of other people) up in an Israeli marketplace. The police found some of the bombers hemorrhoids but did not know for sure who he was. So they arrested the parents of a suspect and took DNA. Bingo! They found their winner!
Really neat technically. Now let’s put this together.
If they find some unknown DNA on Something or Another it would be possible to go to the database and say “This suspect never gave DNA, but we can prove he is related to Mary and John. Let’s go look at their children.”
At this point, it gets creepy. Even if you never gave up your DNA, it is possible the government has, or soon will have it anyway!
I understand that this has a lot of good uses. Like identifying bodies. On the other hand, I am somewhat disturbed by all this.
In the UK, one of the really anti-freedom acts of our current couldn’t-care-less-about-human-rights-government is that every person arrested (not charged or found guilty) has their DNA taken.
And to add to that the same government has changed the centuries old law that only certain offences are arrestable- now a constable can arrest anyone for any suspected offence, no matter how minor (littering, driving without being able to produce a licence or insurance, etc.) and then be able to take a record of your DNA.
I’m of mixed feelings about this. Aside from compiling a medical database from our DNA (something I don’t want the government to do), is this all that different from having your fingerprints on file? Isn’t it S.O.P. to fingerprint suspects, not just convicts? As for extrapolating from your relatives’ DNA… well, them’s the breaks. If your parents volunteer their DNA, or otherwise have their DNA on file, is there some reason the cops shouldn’t use technology to extrapolate?
I always love it on shows like *CSI *when the cops say they want to take someone’s DNA in order to “eliminate you as a suspect”. Yeah, right!
Right, that’s part of the problem. I couldn’t point at anything in the Constitution that says I have a right to keep my DNA private. On the other hand, when the government can already hear your phone calls and look at your e-mails and online purchases and things, and now perhaps get your DNA also - you start wondering if something isn’t being lost.
Old news, kinda…
I fully understand that this level of scientific capability is very scary. On the other hand, it’s not really that different from the old small-town scenario of “well, the guy ran away and left no evidence, but an eyewitness described him as looking a lot like Bob from Lower Bottom Farm. And we know Bob has a brother - lets go interview Bob and his brother and find where they were at the time”.
If it’s okay for ‘traditional’ detective work to make a connection to you through your relatives car, telephone calls, appearance, conversation or whatever, why isn’t it OK for them to make that connection through their DNA?
If it’s OK for the police to keep paper records of every interview they’ve ever carried out, why can’t they keep a database of related arrest information?
These types of questions have no easy answers - I think they basically come down the level of trust you have in the law enforcement apparatus in a given country. If you have faith that DNA or whatever will only ever be used to apprehend actual genuine criminals, you will probably have no objections. If you suspect that the data may be used for something a little more nefarious (such as, perhaps, harassing someone politically troublesome), then it’s a whole different ball-game. But ultimately, it’s all down to faith.
I do not like the small-town scenario either. If Andy and Barney have my DNA, surely they can use it to fake results that would unjustly implicate me. I understand that happened in West (by God!) Virginia.
Presumably they could either fake the results of a test to have it look like your sequence came up, or plant some of your sample if they have that. Much like they could plant a fingerprint or a hair or a gun or whatever other physical evidence, but more compact and easy to place. Not sure how easy that would be to do, but presumably if The Man really is out to get you with the aid of The Establishment, it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to set up.
And David Brin’s book “The Transparent Society” increasingly looks like a fulfilled prophecy.
Thing is, we can pass laws declaring things “secret”, but how do you keep them secret when it becomes trivially easy to break that secrecy? All that does is keep the violation of secrecy secret!
Secrecy and anonymity are impossible goals. Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant. Anonymity is over and done with, and no amount of wailing about it will stuff the genie back in the bottle. So, given that, what are we going to do about it?
The obvious best answer is to use the power of surveillance to monitor those who use the power of surveillance. Anyone can snoop on anyone, but if you snoop on someone everyone knows you’re snooping. Snoops can find out any secret you have, but they can’t keep their snooping secret.
I said I couldn’t point to it, not that it wasn’t in there. :smack: That sounds like an unreasonable search and seizure to me, but it needs precedent. If there are intermediate steps like the one discussed in this thread, I can see DNA-as-protected-by-fourth-amendment being eroded into nothing.
[Much to my amusement, I made the first reply to that thread and mentioned the Fourth Amendment, which I didn’t think of before my post last night.]