Monday, April 16, 2007

Too much information

Which country has the largest records of genetic information ?

You might have thought China, or India since they have the largest populations.

In fact, the United Kingdom keeps more genetic information about its citizens than any other state on the Planet. There is more DNA from British citizens in laboratories than in any other country on Earth.

The sources for this material is not just the criminal justice system, where DNA from people that is taken to eliminate them from police inquiries is not routinely destroyed. It is also the health care system, and insurance. It is even collected from school children!

A large amount of genetic information is now under institutional control. There are no clear guidelines under legislation as to who may have access to this information. The statutory body that was set up to supervise this has now been split, after too many members objected to the routine dissemination of DNA information.

Let us just recall that this is material that we see more scientific use for every day- material which could become the basis for indelible identification, yet which is now available to third parties. No other country keeps such information as a matter of routine.

No free and democratic state should seek to spy on its citizens- yet with CCTV- where the UK now also has the largest number of spy cameras per capita in the world- and DNA, the state may now reduce privacy to a dramatic degree.

We can not accept this astonishing erosion of liberty without some severe costs- and I do not accept the idea that "those with nothing to hide, have nothing to fear". The state is the servant of the citizen and not the master. I resent this gross intrusion into my life, as other countries prove, it is not necessary.

A free country does not need to snoop, and should not have a national DNA pool.


Anonymous said...

Uh, Cicero, you missed that wonderful beeb story about how female Indian civil servants had to inform the state of their menstrual that is definitely too much information!

DrMaybe said...

Many health projects want to collect DNA samples so that they will be able to identify the genetic determinants that influence progression to disease - something that can warn someone to have regular check-ups and allow them to get early treatment for disease.

I personally feel that such projects are perfectly acceptable and worthwhile, although I would require additional caveats (e.g. restrict access to the database, anonymise date where possible, insurance companies are not allowed to use genetic make-up as a factor in setting insurance costs either directly or indirectly)