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What Privacy? UK DNA Database Could Grow Fast 290

Posted by timothy
from the jack-straw-man dept.
An unnamed and unsampled reader writes: "According to the BBC The UK home secretary is expanding the police DNA database to include innocent people. And, of course, these can be taken without your consent if the police have 'reasonable' grounds. The police state (RIP bill, etc.) emerging in the UK is looking less and less 'reasonable' every day." The article cites Home Secretary Jack Straw as making a comparison that may strike him as more attractive than it does me, namely likening DNA testing to widespread video surveillance. According to Straw, the "introduction of closed circuit television in streets and shopping centres had been seen at the time as an attack on civil liberties but [is] now welcomed by the public." Anyone from that side of the water feel that way?
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What Privacy? UK DNA Database Could Grow Fast

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  • I am soooooo glad I got out of there and came to the US when I could. Video cameras on most street corners, the ability to MAKE you give up your pgp keys, and now, to crown it all (after the huge Mad Cow Disease gaff and the "British Constitution" forced by losing in the Euro Court of Human Rights one time too many) MANDATORY DNA submission. And this is under the labour party? WTF?
  • by perdida (251676) <thethreatproject@yahoo . c om> on Saturday January 20, 2001 @08:55PM (#492931) Homepage Journal
    All that is needed to extract DNA is one cell - a speck of blood, a swab of saliva or a miniscule fragment of skin that clings to a strand of hair.

    DNA samples can be taken without consent from people who are arrested if there are "reasonable grounds for believing they are involved in a recordable offence (ie one for which they could serve a custodial sentence)".

    Few refuse because to do so may encourage police suspicions about their guilt.

    At present authorisation for the forcible removal of a sample - usually using a mouth swab - has to be given by a superintendent.

    But Mr Straw is proposing reducing this to an officer of inspector rank.


    My goodness. I do not want the police oin control of databanks like this! Nobody should have them.. DNA charts should be maintained by the families that possess them, and perhaps by doctors.

    Obviously, more people have to refuse when officers demand a DNA search! Make it a political stand, not an admission of guilt- because DNA not only links you like a fingerprint would to a crime scene, it also provides information on your medical history and that of your family.

    I do not know the UK law system very well, but does the system have a fifth amendment type protection against self incrimination? Then again, the right not to self-incriminate does not prevent law enforcement from encroaching upon DNA privacies in this country as well...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    http://www.mediaeater.com/cameras/ NYC Surveillance Camera Project [mediaeater.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    With unique genes being even rarer than dentists in the UK, it won't take log to round them all up.
  • by TheBracket (307388) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @09:02PM (#492934) Homepage
    When I was studying criminal law (in the UK), a section of one of our courses was dedicated to DNA evidence. Our professor cited several tracts showing that DNA identification is only accurate to around 1 in 10,000 people. That may sound pretty accurate, but that would yield 10 suspects for any piece of DNA evidence in a city of 100,000 people. I'd certainly hope that nobody would be convicted purely on DNA evidence unless the other 9 people had been traced!

    That said, I find it pretty creepy that any body would have the legal (if not moral) right to compile databases of DNA information "just in case." So much for the presumption of innocence!

  • First Presidential post!
  • Well your clearly an idiot, so just to make you look like more of an ass, prove it. Show me facts that white dna is the best. I am half jewish, and half white. Genetic diversity is the only way to have the human race be strong enough to withstand diesese's that attack certian creeds. If the entire world was white, and we released a diesese that killed all the white people. White Dna wouldnt be very good at all, would it? Nope. Also, the entire concept of something being the best is irrelevent. The best for what? I guess if you want more of that type of dna in the pool. Also I would appreate it if you would remove yourself from the world, as if you breed, it will be very bad. Also if you have kids, you should attack them and make them hate biggots like yourself. I hope I never meet you or you might be embarrsed by being beated by a jew.


    Fight censors!
  • I do not know the UK law system very well, but does the system have a fifth amendment type protection against self incrimination?

    No, there is not. In fact, there have been several cases convicted purely on the basis of confessions that were later withdrawn! (Fortunately, that practice has since been outlawed in the aftermath of the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4 inquiries).

  • So, in your case which you describe, it would be useful. How else would you be able to find the other 9 people in the city without having their DNA and name catalogued on file?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 20, 2001 @09:06PM (#492939)
    But I just wanted to add my 2 cents (pence?). When that purse snatcher takes your wife's purse, or the kidnapper your daughter, and a wee bit of evidence is found that could lead to the perp's arrest *IF*ONLY* there were a national database of such information, I'm certain your tune might change. Or would you rather picture the maniacal leer of a child molester getting away with crime after crime because we want our privacy? To hell with that. I'll gladly give a DNA sample if asked, if it means getting criminals off the streets. 'Gigs
  • of my privacy rights.

    Secret Service Agents are following you right now to arrest you for impersonating a president.

    Of course if you give me your userid, we might be able to make a deal...

    The President of the United States of America
  • It's things like this that make me thankful for the right to own firearms. If it gets worst WE can fight back, but then again you brits gave the man all your guns. To bad for you, 5 years (after they add to the resons to collect samples) and I would say they have a 99% compleat database, after all, it is for your protection

    (fear those 5 words).


    ________

  • Well if they stop as soon as they get one match, your fucked. After all, its got to be right, its a dna test.


    Fight censors!
  • You may not know that yet but this is also done in a few US cities and what's shocking is that most people in those cities aren't against it, au contraire.
    It's a different world out their.
  • So now we are now going to be all the time under survellience. Only thing it's going to be 2004 instead of 1984.
  • CCTV is pretty widespread over here now, and yes, it is widely welcomed. It provides a feeling of safety and monitoring that many people welcome.

    But to compare the keeping of DNA records on every citizen ever questioned by the police is an affront to our civil liberties, such as they are nowadays. I do not want the government to hold my incredibly rare personal make-up anywhere. The chances of mis-identification by DNA and the ability to abuse these data scares me.

  • by zCyl (14362) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @09:12PM (#492946)
    There really isn't any problem with video surveilance in a mall or another public area where there are lots of people. If there are already crowds around you, then you have no expectation of privacy, and you already know you're being observed directly by the crowd around you. The problem only comes into play when this technology crosses the thin line and starts monitoring private encounters. Two people slip into a back ally and start kissing, or maybe two people standing in a bathroom start discussing politics or their dislike of a particular security guard's wife. That's when freedom starts to plummet, and surveillance starts to permeate our private lives.

    DNA databases are an entirely different issue. A DNA database can be used to match repeat offenders of crimes, provided strict rules are in place to prevent the usage of this database for anything other than crime solving. (Yes, even convicted criminals have rights, that's necessary for the entire concept of rehabilitation to work.) But DNA databases of innocent civilians? This is unacceptable. The only acceptable use of DNA by government would be in solving crimes, but when government begins an investigation with a presumption of guilt, then a lot of innocent people are sent to prison. Is it justice to send a person to prison for murder because one of their hairs fell onto the murderer earlier that day and was carried to the crime scene?

    We have no need to catalogue and number the general population using the body's serial number. This is no different from branding a person with a serial number on the arm and setting up a device that can track everyone wherever they go by their serial number. It serves no greater good, only abuse.
  • This nazi is so fucking stupid, I will wager that he thought you spelled nazi "Notzie" untill you correctly posted what he thinks he is above...


    Fight censors!
  • This is happening in Australia too - but we're suffering from some sort of failure of takeup =). Here's an article [theadvertiser.com.au] to that point . You can see why the idea is appealing to the law enforcement ppl. It's like a fingerprint database just a little more comprehensive (accurate?).

    I think it more sinister having those damn security cameras everywhere - I am not in the actors guild but heck I am sure I get on film just as much...
    --

  • by gunner800 (142959) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @09:23PM (#492954) Homepage
    I'll gladly give a DNA sample if asked, if it means getting criminals off the streets.

    If your DNA were needed to get criminals off the street, then you must be a criminal. Personally, I am not one. My DNA is of no use for crime prevention, and I resent the implication that it is needed.


    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • I recall a while back the UK police made the very logical argument, that "We'll only keep the DNA of convicted criminals on file, if your DNA is sampled and you're found to be innocent, the sample will be destroyed and your database entry erased." (paraphrased, of course)

    Judging by what is happening here, it looks as if the officials have used the above argument as a way to get their metaphorical foot in the door on DNA databasing, so that they can eventually build up a comprehensive database of the populous.

    IMO, this stinks. I don't want to seem alarmist, but there are very real, very genuine privacy issues that are being dealt with here, and I'm willing to bet that the majority of the public in the UK doesn't know anything about it, and I think that's a shame.

    As for the CC Surveylence, I have absolutely no issues with such systems being implemented in public places. These have been shown to decrease vandalism and violent crime drastically, as well as increasing the feeling of safety among members of the community. Good stuff.

  • We all value aspects of our ways of life as birthrights, and no amount of explanation will assuage ( for those who are smart enough to notice) the loss of what is "self-evidently" ours.

    Unfortunately or not, the list of dead certainties is long. If there is one thing that can be learnt from Western history, it is that, as a civilization, we will use any technology that we can use. That is what defines us. Economists now talk about "disruptive inventions" as a new thing. But they are as old as print and gunpowder, and if we know ourselves we know that we cannot have enough disruption ( as long as it increases our ability to do things).

    That does not mean that technology is deterministic. we do shape it to fit our preconceptions; we do try to fit it within old legal and political structures ( cf. Napster) . But we ( as a civilization) just do not say, 'No Thanks'.

    given this copious history, my feeling is that too many privacy mourners are barking at the wrong tree. We now have the technology to track individuals in their everyday life and access that knowledge with growing efficiency. Whether it is good or bad is rather irrelevent. Does this technology increase power? Can we do, thanks to it, what we couldn't do yesterday, or do it with less expenses? Does it create wealth? It seems that the answear is a triple yes. Extrapolating from the past, I believe it is a sure bet that this technology will be widely adopted across the developed world in two decades.

    Culture matters! In the UK and France, the government will hold the keys. Scandinavians will put the new databases under public control while the Americans will pretend that as long as its Visa rather than Uncle Sam that knows all about you than it is ok. But we will all use it, ( to all those who think the US is different, btw, New York City is already widely covered by video surveillance)

    So what should we do ,Give up? I think we need to recognize that while privacy as we know it is as good as dead, power isn't. We will lose our privacy. But it is up to us whether we will also lose the power over our life that privacy affords us and because of which we value it. Rather than bitch about privacy itself, we should concerns ourselves with the way the new technologies alter the balance of power in society and concentrate on new mechanisms that compensate for it.

  • by OctaneZ (73357) <ben-slashdot2@@@uma...litech...org> on Saturday January 20, 2001 @09:29PM (#492958) Journal
    All Things Considered [npr.org] had an interesting discussion of DNA banks and peoples rights. They discussed both the voluntary data bank in Iceland, as well as the purchased databanks, of entire islands that were bought by independant American research companies. They also discused similar actions very similar to a DNA collection, such as Cancer and tumor collection that were collected from patients during surgery, and sent on for analysis and research without the patients consent; their point being think how much we have advanced through not giving people a choice, or even informing them. While I do not neccessarilly agree with this view, it is an interesting one to think about and hear debated. Genetic mapping differs slightly from previous collections in that these samples could theoretically tell you almost everything physical about a person; where as previous databanks like this had been mutated or foreign cells. Anyway, an interesting thing to think about; you can get both transcripts and audio from the site. and if you didn't know about "Science Friday" on NPR you should check it out, it's a great program!
    -OctaneZ
  • by cwhicks (62623) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @09:37PM (#492960)
    I work with someone with a similar opinion to yours and it seems the sides are like the abortion argument. The other side thinks the other is rediculous and never the twain shall meet. But here I go...

    Although I understand what you are saying I completely disagree.

    Yes, if someone kidnapped my daughter and all I had to do was give some spit to give her back, it all seems reasonable. But you're putting it in a context of a personal situation as compared to a societal, and one is different from the other. If you ask me if everone in the country should give a DNA sample to the government to solve a sticky case that pops up tomorrow, I would say no way in hell. Freedom has a price, and someone able to get away with murder sometimes is the price for us all not being followed around by a government policeman all day.

    Let me ask you this. A better way of finding criminals is to put a non-removable tracking bracelet on every citizen, and the government records where everyone is at every moment of the day. That way when a body turns up, the just print out of list of everyone who was at that location since the murder.

    Now the guy I work with would say, "I have nothing to hide, I don't care if everyone knows where I am all the time and what I am doing."

    This is so insane to me I don't know where to begin, but I also can't make a good argument against it. It is as if he has no sense of personal freedom or self determination. If someone else can help me out, I would be glad to hear it.
  • (expected rating: -1, Troll) That being said, this is absolutely not a troll. People fear the government far too much. Technically, it exists for you, or in spite of you. If you want to have the benefits of its protections, then you have to submit to the lack of freedoms in some areas. Otherwise, you get martial law, or anarchy. Anarchy is extremely lame, because it denies every advancement we've made in 6000 years. If you can't trust your government, overthrow it. Otherwise, be happy at the protections you get. -k.
  • by tbo (35008) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @09:52PM (#492966) Journal
    If there are already crowds around you, then you have no expectation of privacy

    On the contrary, I'd say that everyone has an expectation that their day-to-day public activities are reasonably anonymous. In other words, you expect that it would be difficult for someone to know exactly how you spent your entire day, and that they would have to go to the expense of hiring one or more people to follow you to obtain this information (similar to how you expect privacy in your home, even though someone can spy through a window using binoculars.

    The problem is that security cameras, combined with face-recognition software, makes it possible to automatically track a large number of people. Think cookies and web bugs, only for real life, and you can't turn them off. Worried yet?
  • The problem with DNA analysis is that (as someone else pointed out) it doesn't narrow down to an individual. Let's take the other person's numbers and say that 1 in 10,000 people has a particular DNA signature. In a city of 1,000,000 people, that means that 100 people have this DNA signature.

    Now, the prosecution may say something like this: "There's only a 1 in 10,000 chance that your DNA print matches the DNA print found at the scene! Certainly that's beyond a reasonable doubt!"

    But the defense can counter as follows, "What particular DNA print my client has is not in question. He shares that pattern with 99 other people here in Smog City. So there's only a 1 in 100 chance that you're accusing the right person! How's that for reasonable doubt?!"

    John Allen Paulos does a nice treatment of just this kind of fallacy/paradox in "Once Upon A Number," his most recent book, as well as perhaps a couple of his other books (I'm guessing "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper").
  • In Canada the RCMP have the right to invade whatever private residence you are in, in order to forcibly extract a DNA sample from you. They do not need a warrant.

    OK, this is a troll, and it's already been modded down, but I should really clear this up. The RCMP don't do this, and, to the best of my knowledge, can't do this. They'd need a warrant.
  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Saturday January 20, 2001 @10:04PM (#492971) Homepage

    Slashdoter: It's things like this that make me thankful for the right to own firearms.

    At least with a DNA database we'll be aiming our non-existent guns at the right person, rather than just going on random killing sprees that you seem to prefer over there.

    --

  • Fancy a laugh?

    Under the Data Protection Act in England&Wales (and Scotland IIRC), you have the right to a copy of any data held about you by a company.

    This include security firms.

    This includes CCTV cameras.

    If you walk past a security camera, you can legally demand a copy of the tape every time you walk past.

    --

  • by tbo (35008) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @10:15PM (#492975) Journal
    Britain recently made it legal for insurance companies to discriminate on the basis of the results of a genetic test for Parkinson's Disease. Presumably, permission to do so with other genetic diseases will soon follow. Couple this with a government-run DNA database, and you really have to wonder what the hell is going on. I know I posted that earlier message about how credit rating agencies aren't pure evil, but when the government gets in on it, and it's your DNA, it's time to be afraid.

    How big a leap is it from this to "monitoring" people who have a genetic predisposition to violent or compulsive behaviours? Perhaps we'll see mandatory DNA sampling of those who get caught in the net of "geek profiling".

    I'd like to make a few observations that may be offensive to people who hold certain political views. This is not a troll, but instead is a straightforward (blunt) statement of my opinions.

    1. When you take a people's freedoms by force, there is some hope that they will rise up and reclaim them. When you convince them to give their freedom up willingly, those freedoms will never be restored.

    2. Britain is (or soon will be) no longer a free country. Time to take it back or leave. Mayflower II, anyone?

    3. This is why the Fourth Amendment [cornell.edu] is a good thing, along with the Second Amendment [cornell.edu] to guarantee that the people always have a last resort against a tyrannical government.

    4. My genome is mine. The only people who have any sort of claim on it are my family members. If you want to record, patent, or copy my DNA without my permission, go fuck off and die.
  • by table and chair (168765) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @10:21PM (#492980)
    It's now standard procedure to append "Do you mind if I search your vehicle?" to routine traffic stop dialogue.

    If the police have reasonable cause to do so, they don't need your permission.... yet refusing to allow a search on principle leads to a confrontational situation that may or may not end in a citizen's favor.

    Twice now I have been through this conversation:

    "Do you mind if I search your vehicle?"

    "No, I see no need to search my vehicle."

    "Do you have something to hide?"

    "No, but you have no cause to search my vehicle."

    "If you have nothing to hide, why do you mind if I search your vehicle?"

    "Because there is no reason for you to be searching my vehicle."

    "You seem nervous. Are you nervous?"

    *repeat ad nauseum (for 20 or 30 minutes)*

    Of course the cop knows better than the citizen that they have no right to search the vehicle without cause. But still this conversational tactic persists.

    A swab in the mouth is arguably less intrusive in the short term than a cop digging McDonald's cartons from under the seat, yet in the long term... the possibility for abuse is terrifying, far more than the possibilities that exist in relation to your car.

    "Do you mind if I swab your mouth for the database?" will only escalate the already contentious relationship between the citizenry and the police. And here, we have a situation where it's not only, "Do you have something to hide?" but, "Will you have something to hide in the future?" From the start, such a confrontation will not only set up the citizen as a potential perp at the moment, but a potential long-term criminal....

    It has taken a great deal of strength not to look at that gun, get out of my car and say, "Fine. Whatever the fuck you wanna do. I have nothing to hide." People who (a) don't know better, or (b) have less contempt for law enforcement officers are probably at some disadvantage. And it's those people -- people with far less ability to protect themselves from abuse -- that will end up in this database.

    But those people are all criminals anyway, right?

    I am too drunk to sum it up in any less cheesy way. But you get the point.



    And no, I'm not driving tonight. :P



  • If you deny that a DNA bank could have real good criminological uses, you're fooling yourself.

    And if you deny that a government would misuse such a bank, you're also deluded.

    The solution seems obvious. A private company who keeps the data, and only gives it out for legitimate purposes.
  • by Gorimek (61128) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @10:31PM (#492987) Homepage
    If I knew the streets were monitored, I'd feel safer walking in San Francisco. If only a few streets were being taped, I might go out of my way to walk on a taped one.

    I don't see the problem. If you don't want people to see you, don't go out in public. That's how it's always been.

    I heard that street crime has practically disappeared in heavily monitored areas in the UK, but I may misremember that.
  • It comes down to the bigger guns

    No it doesn't, this is a seemingly logical argument that really doesn't hold up at all when you think about it.

    The british had "bigger guns" than the revolutionary army but we still won. The US had bigger guns than the vietnamese but we still lost, and so on.

    The simple fact is that its pretty impossible to control a population through military force alone. you can DEFEAT them in a military sense, but then you have to live with them on a day-to-day basis and if they don't want to let you do that, you're in for a long life of painful terrorism -- never knowing if the barber is going to slash your throat or cut your hair. Being an occupying force isn't easy, and doesn't hinge on superior firepower...

    ---------------------------------------------
  • Every bad story about Australia, UK and China there's always some guy who goes (haha you don't have guns, you can't bloodily kill your entire government when they make a bad policy unlike us)
    Not to mention guns haven't been made illegal in Australia, just many automatics and the more deadly guns have been made so. I'm not sure about policy in other countries.

    So tell me, how many times did you rally up your troops about carnivore or when net porn was temporarily banned in America. Friggin None (I hope).

    Ahh message was probably just flame bait anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 20, 2001 @11:09PM (#492994)
    You'll have to excuse me if this info is incorrect. I'm an engineer, not a biologist! With that said...

    I've been taught (just this past semester, no less) that the accuracy of the test depends on the number of loci (specific places on the DNA strand) examined, and that there is no set figure for the odds of an incorrect match.

    Here's why:

    The human DNA sequence is too large to look at as a whole, so biologists realized that they could use things called restriction enzymes to isolate small fragments of the entire sequence. The trick is to find locations which vary a lot in the population. If you looked at a segment the codes for toes, for instance, the odds of finding a match would be pretty good.

    So if you find a large number (say 15 or 20) of these loci which vary greatly in the population, the odds of an incorrect match are quite small. I can't remember exact figures, but they are much less than 1 in 10,000.

    --
    chahast AT pangaea FOO dhs FOO org
    s/FOO/dot

  • The UK doesn't have a constitution, which we've always regarded as being a huge strength. Instead its had a haphazard 'organic' collection of laws that protect the citizen from the state (the first being Magna Carta) and these have grown up over time. More recently the UK government has incorporated the European Declaration of human rights into UK law. See: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/law/hamlyn/echr.htm for a full explanation. This is a huge change and although we hate the idea of anything forced on us by the European Superstate - its probably / possibly a good thing. There is though a real problem with law and order in the UK (its now significantly more dangerous to wander around the streets of London than New York). I very much doubt that this database will do much to help and clearly has the risks that you've mentioned. The real problem with the police and the state is that they seem convinced that technology / cars / helicopters / webcams are the solution to every problem. The idea that the police should get off their butts and start walking / patrolling the streets is still an anathema. Why? Well, Constable buggins loves his warm, noisy powerful squad car with all its gadgets - makes him feel like a real man.
  • by xant (99438) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @12:13AM (#493010) Homepage
    You coworker's problem is that he has an incomplete understanding of "nothing to hide". He means "I have nothing to hide from the law." This may be true, but I doubt it. Nearly every human being over the age of 20 has committed a crime of some sort for which they have gone unpunished, be it jaywalking, illegally going through a stop light at 2 am when he wasn't paying attention, stealing a pen from an unwatched desk, etc. But let's assume the government's motivation for punishing those types of crimes remains what it is today - zero.

    Does your coworker ever pick his nose? Does he ever secretly read books written by Rush Limbaugh and assert that he is a Democrat to gain peer acceptance? Does he ever laugh at racist jokes?

    Does your coworker ever dislike the government's policy about something? Has he ever felt morally obligated to disobey that policy because it was so heinous? There is a thing called Civil Disobedience - in America we regard it as a duty to disobey unjust laws. True, Civil Disobedience is supposed to be a public act, but the practical side of Civil Disobedience is that it can gain momentum by offering the anonymity of the group - anonymity which can be taken away when we let this kind of technology be used by those who govern.

    And if we've learned anything with /., it's that if a technology can be used to do something, it will be. If a DNA database exists, it will be used by people who want to pick out political dissidents. It will be used whether you want them to or not, whether that use is "legal" or not, it will be used because it CAN be used. Our governments have the power to access this technology, to use it for nefarious purposes, and therefore they will. Maybe they'll get caught, but they'll do it.

    Did you believe those websites when they said your credit card information would be securely stored where no cracker could ever possibly get to it? Do you believe them now? Now ask yourself - do you believe the DNA database will be uncrackable? Do you believe no one can be smart enough, or bribe enough people, or have the right friends, to get access to this knowledge?

    And once access is gained, does your coworker KNOW everything that can be done with it? I don't. Neither do you. Neither does he. But I didn't know the flags set on your TCP packets could be used to tell what OS sent the packet, either, and therefore used to figure out how to crack the machine - now I do. All information given away gives away power. And this is an egregious amount of information - this is YOU, down to your toenails.

    Don't let them just take it.
    --

  • If your DNA were needed to get criminals off the street, then you must be a criminal. Personally, I am not one. My DNA is of no use for crime prevention, and I resent the implication that it is needed.

    Your DNA isn't needed so much as your willingness to submit it. By submitting your DNA without protest, you silently advocate that a criminal's DNA be on file, when he first COMMITS a crime (which is when it is needed)... not after he gets caught. If you don't submit your DNA to the database, however, you allow a future criminal to make that same choice as you, and thereby make it more difficult to catch him when he does commit a crime.
  • by Zemran (3101) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @12:26AM (#493015) Homepage Journal
    The act still requires the individuals permission to keep his DNA on file unless the individual is guilty of a crime. They anticipate that the DNA database will grow because people will want to be on the database, I for one do not want to be on the database.

    They still do not have the right to do anything that is contrary to the Human Rights act. That includes taking DNA without permission or a warrant and keeping it without a conviction.

    I have not read the BBCs article but I have read the act. I also have a copy of RIP and that does not give them the super powers that you read about here either.
  • I completely agree. Data like this in the wrong hands is only going to create trouble. My fingerprints are on file with the FBI, CIA, DoD, and all sorts of other nifty government organizations just because of my job. I don't like it but what can I do?

    The one thing i'm afraid of is the complete accuracy of the DNA information, they said it was accurate to 1 in 10,000 people. I don't like those odds. Just the other night I was arrested by a Cop because of inaccurate information. The dispatcher reported to the cop that My license was suspended, so they arrested me. I lost a day of work because someone didn't know how to do their job.

  • by DzugZug (52149) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @12:51AM (#493021) Journal
    I think it was Barry Goldwater who said:

    A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.
  • Citizens do harm to one another. That is a fact of life, unfortunate but something we have to live with. Government should do no harm. It is better to let 100 criminals go free than to wrongly convict one inocent. "To declare that in the administration of criminal law, the end justifies the means...would bring terrible retribution." (Justice Brandeis)
  • If your DNA were needed to get criminals off the street, then you must be a criminal.

    Nonsense. In a high profile rape case in Australia (an elderly woman was raped and savagely bashed), the entire adult male population of the town where the crime occured volunteered to provide DNA samples. Except one... I believe he tried to flee, but was arrested and eventually convicted.

    DNA screening is not grounds for conviction on its own, so unless your DNA matches and there are other grounds to believe you were responsible for the crime. DNA samples are just as important - if not more important, given limited police resources - for determining who isn't a suspect. If you're not a criminal, what have you got to hide?
  • by Pentagram (40862) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @02:26AM (#493038) Homepage
    How the hell did this get marked Insightful? What happened to political tolerance?

    There's two major points wrong with this comment, apart from the rhetoric:

    1) The UK Labour party is socialist? When did that happen? They haven't been a socialist party for 20 years. Even they don't claim they're socialist.

    2) Socialists don't have respect for individual rights? What about: abolition of slavery, votes for women, votes for non-landowners, vote by secret ballot, abortion rights,national health service, state pension, minimum wage, gay rights etc. All of the above were (or are) opposed in the UK by the Conservatives and supported by the socialists.


    ---
  • slashdot, where racist comments about ppl who r not american is modded up as funny
  • Last tme I heard, DNA test results actually didn't pin guilt on you that tightly. Something like 1 in a million - which sounds high but means there's statistically something like 6,000 people in the world who could have produced that same result.

    We do have some form of self-incrimination protection - firstly we have a right not to answer questions put to us (and silence, as I recall, can't be taken to infer guilt) while the Human Rights Act [hmso.gov.uk] gives us some protection, too. Sorry, not a lawyer so I don't know the details.

    I can actually see why they want to do this - there have been cases in Britain of convictions getting thrown out as, even though there was good evidence, part of the evidence was a DNA sample which was taken in a previous investigation but didn't result in a conviction and it wasn't thrown away (whew!). Still not sure it's a good idea, mind you, but it's not as bad as it might look.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2001 @02:53AM (#493049)
    If you're not a criminal, what have you got to hide?

    Tell me you haven't fallen for that old and tired fallacy. I do have things to hide just like everybody. That's, in fact, why we have the concept of privacy in the first place.

    If a horrific crime had been committed and the police would come to me asking for a DNA sample I most definitely would NOT give it to them if it was for screening purposes only. I didn't do it and that's it. I don't want my DNA ending up in some database even after I've been found innocent.

    On the other hand, if the police could come up with GOOD reasons regarding why I, in particular, should provide a sample then I would consider it. Good reasons would be like a witness reporting that I had been near the crime scene just before the incident, or someone claiming that I did it. Limited police resources are not a good reason to go rounding up all the people for a test.

    But for a brute force method like in your case... no way.

  • We still have guns in the UK and the right to own one as long as you are not a convicted criminal. They are just heavily regulated. I go clay pigeon shooting most weeks and do not even have a license. If I wanted to keep a gun at home I would need a license and I would need a secure steel cabinet to keep the gun in. If I am refused a license the police need to say why and give good cause. I can appeal and if the police do not have a valid reason to refuse me a license then my apeal will be granted. I would then be subject to spot checks by the police to make sure I was looking after the gun correctly. If I could not show where the gun was I would be taken to court. I do not want that bother so I belong to a club. The club looks after the guns and I do not have to put up with any bother from the police.

    It is worth noting that the American freedom to own a gun is seen here as a reason that they have a per capita murder rate 100 times greater than ours. If guns were kept in cabinets in the US then their children might stop taking them to school. Also, in America, the criminals also find it easy to get guns because of the freedom. Here because all guns are kept in safes, it is hard to get one illegaly.
  • So what happens when some russian mafia gang cracks the computer, copies the database and uses it to trace and kill people they don't like?
  • I'm not necessarily a fan of currently policing tactics but the idea that having more policeman on the beat is a panacea is dangerous.

    Someone did the research a little while ago and looked up how long a cop on the beat would have to walk around for before they were statistically likely to catch some criminal act. Assuming normal work patterns and so on, the figure was something like 80 years!

    All it does is pacify a nervous, misinformed public who've been told by right-wing politicians and media that it's the only metric worth considering. No matter that they actually caused most of the problems, because the current bunch aren't attempting to tackle them in the misguided way they'd like and pandering to ignorance, they're clearly not doing a good job.

    A greater percentage of our policemen on the beat would increase crime levels as they wouldn't be able to properly develop and use intelligence, or respond rapidly to distress calls. After all, which would you prefer if you've just dialled 999 / 911 / 112 (pick one depending on area) - to hope there's a policeman within 5-10 minutes walk who can amble across to you, or to know there's one in a car who can drive over and thus cover a far greater area with the same response times?

    We need to get beyond kneejerk politics and listen to the academic researchers, people.
  • by GavK (58709) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @03:18AM (#493054) Homepage
    firstly we have a right not to answer questions put to us (and silence, as I recall, can't be taken to infer guilt)
    Wellll. The UK USED to have this, but if you get arrested now it says:

    "You have the right to remain silent, but it may harm your defense if you fail to mention something which you rely on in court"

    Not quite the same really...

    I left the UK just over a year ago and moved to amsterdam, the police here are *nice*, *Friendly* and *helpful*. The laws are vaguely sensible, and Jack Straw isn't here.

    Oh, and street crime is almost non-existant. Funny that.

    The UK disgusts me now, the way they are going...

  • The claim against the effectiveness of CCTV was that it didn't reduce crime, it merely moved it to areas that don't have CCTV.
  • I'd still personally consider the two to be similar _enough_ but yes, I see what you mean.

    The Netherlands are interesting as a social study in some ways so glad to hear you like it.

    And I'd happily work to get rid of Jack Straw :) What he's doing in a party which was nominally socialist until recently I will never understand.
  • But the mujahadeen had the support of the West who supplied them with guns. How does that relate to the 'right' of a private citizen to own a lethal weapon? Most guns and other weaponry are illegal in the UK, but it hasn't stopped the IRA from waging a terrorist campaign. Freedom can be won without giving mentally disturbed people the opportunity to go on shooting sprees when they snap. In any case there are plenty of gun-owners in the UK, although they have to have a license.
  • Our dentists are first rate

    This confuses me. Do you yanks really think perfect teeth are more important than being thin? I'd rather have one tooth out of place and weigh 210 pounds than have perfect teeth and weigh 400 pounds. And if you knew anything about the UK you'd know that we haven't joined the Euro yet. Anyway why would I want a gun when I can defend myself fine with my fists and feet, although I wouldn't expect a yank to know anything about exercise more strenuous than a walk from the car park to McDonalds.
  • It was not.

    And not because of some triumph of principle, but because after a while it just wasn't entertaining for them anymore, and there were other things to occupy their time.

    I keep reading the sentence that I just wrote, and each time I get a little more frustrated. In both cases, I was pulled over for trivial things, like failing to use a turn signal at 1AM on a deserted street. Technically, I guess, I broke the law. But you know... why should I ever be in a position in which I am forced to defend myself like that? We all know I was pulled over not because of an exceedingly minor traffic violation, but because the cop harbored hopes that something more significant would arise. Yes, his job is to enforce even exceedingly minor traffic violations. But if I were a 50 year old woman driving a brand new Cadillac... who here thinks that violation would have been enforced? (You caught me! I'm a twenty-something male in a not-so-new vehicle...)

    If I had been stopped and simply reminded to use my signal -- or even ticketed for it -- and left to go on my way, I wouldn't be writing an enormous diatribe on Slashdot right now. ;) But I wasn't pulled over for that violation. I was pulled over for things the cop hoped I was doing. Were they actually wishing that crime was happening on their watch? And where's the line between vigilance and assumption of guilt? Hey, this is on topic, isn't it... :)

    The "Why are you nervous?" question both cracks me up and infuriates me. Yes, when I'm driving down the street doing nothing horrendously wrong, transporting nothing illegal, minding my own business, and a person with a gun (and the power to do, ultimately, pretty much anything they want) forces me to stop and begins questioning me with the clear presumption that I must be a criminal, using rhetorical techniques and body language and other actions expressly designed to intimidate, I'm probably not going to be reacting to things "normally." Especially when I'm trying really hard to exercise my rights in the face of someone who ought to understand them better than me, and yet is pretending not to in hopes of an entertaining bust. And of course, all the while I have to work equally hard not to be the irritating smartass I want to be, to prevent the situation from escalating. Best of all, this all plays nicely into their game: sufficient "nervousness" or "hostility" can probably be construed as probable cause, if they want it to be. And then I'm going to have to open my mouth for that swab if eight cops have to hold me down to do it.



  • The UK police already keep DNA information about people who have not been convicted. In fact there was a recent court case where a judge allowed illeagally held DNA information to be used as evidence . James
  • Get rid of the fun-size fascist Jack Straw, who seems to have read 1984 when he was little, and thought "Hey, that's a pretty good idea"...
    Actaully don't do that - it'd just be creating a martyr...

    The british tabloids are great at discrediting politicians - surely Jackie boy must have some odd little habits like old J.E. Hoover did....
  • The difference being that in one, you just extend a trust in the state that you have already established, and the other... Basically, you already chose for the government to have the ability to investigate and enforce crimes. Your analogy is kinda funny... but not really accurate at all...

    So when you hear "I'm from the government, trust me", you believe it?

    Here's a good example:
    Census is only supposed to be used for statistics, nothing more. Guess what they used to round up Japanese Americans in WWII? Without any proof that they had or will do anything wrong

    Now let's extend this some. X % of the people with this RFLP polymorphism are criminals. Let's throw 'em all in jail to prevent crime.

  • One thing you should keep in mind is that a police state doesn't happen over night. Its a slow erosion of freedom, almost imperceptable. These things happen over several lifetimes, so no one notices and no one remembers how it used to be. So just because a current piece of legislation doesn't seem too bad, you have to be aware of the cummalative effect of many laws over time.

    Apparently, Brits don't have the distrust of government that seems inherent in Americans. It just seems amazing to me that people are so willing to trade liberty for (perceived) saftey.

  • Hmmmm. That's a thought. Identification w/o information. Doesn't help the tracking problem, though.

    --
  • I am sure that you know a good deal about the laws and freedoms in Britain. However I find your comments about the lack of freedoms in America ignorant.

    For example:

    "America has in there bill of rights stuff about free speach but if you say what you think then you get your yourself taken to court."

    The actual fact is that it is much harder to bring a libel case in the US than it is in Britain. In the US public figures cannot bring libel cases unless you can prove intent to do harm by publishing facts that you knew were incorrect, which is extremely difficult. The libel standards in Britain are much lower, making it much harder to publish freely.

    The fact is that the US rights to freedom of the press and freedom of speech are MUCH stronger than they are in Britain, and have been for over 200 years.

  • It is interesting how the point of view differs even in European Community countries. Just last Thursday the German Constitutional Court published [yahoo.com] its findings on inclusions of genetic samples into a data base. So from now on each single case has to be evaluated by a judge. The DNA sample can only be included in the database if

    1. ths subject was convicted of a serious crime (rape, manslaughter, blackmail, ...)

    2. there is the expection that the convict will be recidivous.

    The simple collection of a DNA sample to compare against a given piece of evidence is allowed (with certain checks) but the sample and collected information has to be destroyed afterwards.

  • ...with another country, and that country has a copy of the national database. I wonder if they could use it to construct a virus to destroy a significant percentage of the UK population ?
  • Freedom can be won without giving mentally disturbed people the opportunity to go on shooting sprees when they snap

    I am afraid the British found out in the case of the Dunblane massacre that laws against guns don't prevent shooting sprees.

  • British cuisine? Give me a break. In England you will find French, Italian, German, Chinease, Thai, etc. restaurants.

    Travel to these other countries, and you will find NO English restaurants! British cuisine is the WORST in the world.

    Fish paste sandwhiches! Pah!

  • I have to disagree. Private companies have an excellent record of honoring privacy, when that is central to their success. Better than any government.

    One example is banks, whose secrecy is famous and hated by governments everywhere. Auditing and accounting are other fields where loose lips will kill your business.

  • heh...this is what i see, before your sample gets tested.

    update [dna_table]
    set dna = crime_scene_dna
    where name = 'Some shleap we brought in and want to nail this on'

    That'd take, what, 1ns to do?
  • Since the inception of mankind, who has commited more insideous acts of vileness? Lone individuals or governments? The killing of Millions of Jewish persons in WWII Germany? Tell me, who wages war and has the power, and uses this power, to march tens of millions of human beings to the front lines of horrific trench warfare battles to be slaughtered for some "just cause" or to simply control some piece of property somewhere?

    Certainly child molesters and serial killers commit deplorable acts against individuals, but they don't frighten me in the least as compared to a controlling and all powerful government who commits equally deplorable acts against entire nations!

  • Someone did the research a little while ago and looked up how long a cop on the beat would have to walk around for before they were statistically likely to catch some criminal act. Assuming normal work patterns and so on, the figure was something like 80 years!

    Without more information, that statistic is useless. For example, might that be because there will be little or no crime to catch in an area where there is a cop on the beat just around the corner?

    Other useful things would include setting 'quotas' based on the importance and prevalence of a crime rather than on potential revenue. One armed assault should be worth 1000 speeding tickets for example. (Consider this, would you as a citizen rather encounter 1000 speeders or one armed assailant?)

  • If there are already crowds around you, then you have no expectation of privacy, and you already know you're being observed directly by the crowd around you.

    Really, in that case, it depends on how the video is being used. If it is sinply displayed in the security office, or even recorded and wiped the next day, it is fine. If it is archived, the problems start. While I have no expectation of privacy in a crowded mall, I do have the expectation that just a short time later, all of those people will remember me only in the aggrigate and couldn't describe me or anything I did or said at all. They certainly wouldn't be able to say this person comes in every friday at 7PM, walks around the mall twice and leaves (or whatever).

    I am in full agreement wrt. DNA database.

  • WTF,
  • I think you're jumping the gun a bit there. Facial recognition (at anywhere like human levels of ability) is one of the hardest problems in AI, and it's nowhere near to being solved just yet.

    It will be solved one day. When it is, it will be far too easy to quietly plug it into the existing infrastructure of cameras without any fanfare. Decisions made now strongly affect the future.

    In the U.S., we are strongly affected by decisions made over 200 years ago by people who could never have imagined our daily reality. All things considered, they did a good job, but we do have problems from things that they (understandably) failed to anticipate.

  • Imagine you could hack into a DNA database (or better yet just bribe someone with access), and find the hundred or so people that matched your DNA imprint in your city.

    Now it's a simple matter to figure out how to make one of them be around the area you plan a crime, and plant 10% of the loot somewhere in the vicims home. The police come looking based on the database, they find some evidence - case closed!
  • You would certainly be crying out for DNA if you were jailed and you didn't do it...


    DNA testing can always demonstrate innocence without a massive database. If law enforcement has a sample of DNA they suspect belongs to the guilty party, and you are wrongly a strong suspect, you can vindicate yourself by giving a DNA sample and demonstrating that they don't match, Databases do not help the innocent, they only threaten them.
  • Whats to stop the person from saying "hey thats the asshole who cut me off this morning, lets say he looks like rapist X and have the police arrest him"

    Nothing more than stops police from doing this to people they see on the street. I bet it already happens sometimes, but surveilance in areas where the cop could already be walking effectively wouldn't really change the current state of things very much.
  • DNA doesn't ensure a conviction. A solid alibi trumps DNA (DNA can hang around for quite a while). It simply helps confirm whether a particular suspect was or was not the perp. It is not the end-all, be-all of modern crime scene investigation. You would certainly be crying out for DNA if you were jailed and you didn't do it...

    Actually, you have just demonstrated the pitfalls of a DNA database! Scientifically (and they do claim science in the courts by calling it scientific evidence), DNA can only exclude a suspect. The presense of a matching sample only says the person is still a suspect, it's absence strongly (but not absolutely) excludes the suspect from further suspicion.

    Solid alibis are hard to come by. I was on my way home at the time: did anybody see you on your way home who would recognize you?, I was at home with my wife: Of course she WOULD say that, I was working late, I signed out after the crime : so you slipped out, offed the guy, then came back to sign out...

    You also presume that in the presence of a 'cop-o-matic' type database where you just go collect samples, run them in the database, and out pops a list of suspects in order of liklihood (based on amount of DNA, criminal history, race [yes, racial profiling happens every day in the U.S. at least] etc), that detectives won't get lazy or simply be overworked. Believe me, the DNA database will become the FIRST tool used, not the last. All other investigation will be colored by the results from the 'cop-o-matic'. This isn't the case now simply because there is no such database. The legwork is done now because they have to track down suspect samples to compare.

    If I were jailed and I didn't do it, I would then be perfectly willing to provide a sample to hopefully exclude me from suspicion. There would be no need for it to have been on file already, and no need for a general database of DNA. I would hope that after being cleared by the test that the sample would be destroyed. I notice no big push to require this final confirmation before convicting a citizen.

    Even if a sample of your DNA (in some cells) were transported to a crimescene by the perp, it would not convict YOU. The perp, beyond his or her control will leave behind their own DNA. In any case, there is DNA all over the place belonging to a whole host of different people who have been in the area of the crime.

    According to witnesses, the defendant and the victim very nearly came to blows earlier that day ofer a heated financial arguement. They have had a years long dislike of each other. The defendant was seen in the area shortly before the crime was comitted. The defendant's DNA was found at the scene.

    The real story: You (the defendant) and the victim DID nearly come to blows that day. You went and had a drink on the way home. The victim also stopped for a drink on the way home. A co-worker who would have lost his job if the victim won the arguement killed the victim. Your DNA figured more prominantly because you (like most people) spray find droplets of spittle when you yell. The real killer fired a single shot from a distance and walked away.

    The jury, who thinks that DNA tests work just like on TV is convinced 'beyond reasonable doubt' by the 'smart' scientist (we all know scientists are really smart) who said that this is SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. They didn't understand the slides and diagrams, but he must know what he's talking about. After all, he IS a scientist. What the jury didn't hear is that he's a scientist in the same sense that a custodial engineer is an actual (bridge designing type) engineer.

  • My memory is a little shaky here, but I suspect this is in reaction to a recent court case where a man was found to be guilty of a particulary gruesome rape - but had to be let go. The DNA evidence they had taken from the scene was matched against DNA of his taken during an earlier investigation into another crime - one he had been found innocent of. That's how they caught him. But under current UK law after an investigation is concluded all DNA evidence collected has to be destroyed (not sure about the DNA evidence of the accused but I think that has to go to).

    So the police shouldn't had had the earlier DNA on file - it should had been destroyed years ago. The only evidence that could had convicted him was inadmissable in court and he was found to be innocent.

    Oh, as regards CCTV camera's they are everywhere here! Mark Thomas said recently that we have the highest camera/person ratio in the world! (I'm told by an American friend of mine that schemes like this would never fly in the states.) And lots of studies have concluded that they do nothing to reduce crime - and in many case crime goes up. It's seen as an alternative to putting real officers on the beat and CCTV footage can't be used as proof of identification in court.

    In Bridgewater, Devon there was a spate of robberies in the town centre timed to conincide perfectly with the shift change at the CCTV centre. Most CCTV footage is very low resolution - incredibly blurry. I believe they typically multiplex about seven feeds onto one tape. Unless the police eating doughnuts in front of the TV screens notices something happening and flicks it to a higher quality output they can be next to useless.

    Oh this is amusing. Under the Data Protection Act 2000 any organisation, company or government body has to provide you with any information they have about you. It cost a tenner. And as Mark Thomas pointed out recently it include .. dah dah dah dah daaah... CCTV cameras!

    That's right - you too can act like a loon in front of CCTV cameras, then write to your local council with a tenner inclosed and they have to send you a copy of the tape!

    Been taped by the police at a local football match/protect/err...riot recently? They get a copy off the police to prove you were there..

    Hours of fun...

  • In the US the courts are constantly full of people being taken to court for their opinions

    This is just some figment of your imagination. The fact is that people publish uncomplementary opinions regarding companies ALL THE TIME without any such actions. Hell, if your theory were true people would be getting sued for publishing bad movie reviews. It just isn't so.

    Look at the recent Firestone case - this company was dragged through the media and whipped on by the press beyond all imagination. Show me ONE instance where Firestone sued any of it's critics.

    Our press have a history of freely saying what they like

    Perhaps, however government censorship of the press is a lot easier in England than in the US. There is NO guarantee of freedom of the press at the level of the US in Britain.

    If you don't believe my assertions regarding British libel law vs. free speech in the US, look at the case where Dr. Godfrey sued several people outside the US for libel and won, where in the US his case was thrown out for infringing on free speech. Here is some background from an article in the NYT:

    Fri, 5 Jun 1998 16:44:46 -0400 (EDT)

    Dr. L. Godfrey is suing Cornell university and a former Cornell grad student for libel in London complaining about messages posted by the student
    (M. Dolenga) on the usenet group soc.culture.canada 3 years ago. Dr. Godfrey has previously settled a case in which he sued a British physicist and won a libel suit against an Australian ISP. He also has two other Internet defamation cases he is pursuing. The general issue here is that UK libel law often prohibits speech which in the US is protected by the
    first amendment. If the usenet articles were written in the US and transmitted to the UK, which laws apply? "English Court May Test U.S. Ideals on Online Speech" -- *The New York Times* (5 Jun 1998, electronic edition)

    One of the most famous cases showing the problems with British libel law was the Living Marxism suit, which prompted Noam Chomsky to come out and write "reform of libel law is crucial for British democracy" in a letter to the London Times dated March 16, 2000.

    Here we have cases which CLEARLY illustrate what I am talking about - what is protected speech in the US can and DOES get you sued in other countries, including Britain.

    I have about had it with people outside the US critcising the state of our freedoms when in FACT they are better than the home country of the person doing the criticising, and a little research can easily turn up factualy evidence to illustrate the truth.

  • There were a good number of laws in effect in Dunblane regulating the ownership of firearms prior to the massacre occurred. The laws were quite restrictive by US standards.

    What you have now is an outright ban on handguns larger than 22 caliber, which has been in effect about 3 years. Whether or not that will stop such events remains to be seen.

  • >Private US citizens with modest military training, would be absolutely no match against the US military.

    Tell that to the Russian soldiers in Chechnya.

    OK, in an all-out war of destruction, a neighborhood full of rifles isn't going to stop the military. They could obviously bomb the place into dust. But you are making the critical mistake of believing THAT IS HOW A REVOLUTIONARY WAR WOULD BE FOUGHT. It isn't.

    The military needs to SUBDUE the population. Not destroy it. And an occupying, invading, pacifying force is terribly susceptible to the kind of warfare that armed citizens can produce. When every door and window might hide a rifleman, it makes the job of rounding up the malcontents a lot harder.

    Going back to Chechnya, the Russian Army found this kind of warfare SO terrible that they DID resort to bombing the city. They shelled the hell out of Grozny. They bombed it with aircraft. They destroyed MOST of the city, and killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians, who were not actively resisting. And to this day, Russian soldiers in Grozny take their life in their hands. Snipers and carbombs still abound. Armed resistance against a "superior" military force can be effective.

    The first time the Russians invaded Grozny, they occupied the city for a time, then were SOUNDLY whipped by the rebel forces. The Russians retreated. A couple of years later, they started the war we see today. (At least we used to see it, before it stopped being news.) Are the Russians in control of the city now? Technically, yes -- but only technically. But at what cost to them? And the Chechens show no signs of letting up. Those guys have some serious spirit.

    A revolution isn't an easy thing. You don't do it overnight. But even against the standing army of a nation, the citizens CAN prevail. It has happened in our recent history.
  • It is worth noting that the American freedom to own a gun is seen here as a reason that they have a per capita murder rate 100 times greater than ours.

    We have equal access to fists and sticks, and I bet our murder rate is higher with those weapons too. America is just a different culture -- it IS more violent here. I don't know why. But it isn't the guns.

    In US cities where they pass laws allowing you to carry a concealed weapon, crime rates tend to go down. Check this link [kc3.com], which has stats on that, especially Florida, a recent case.

    We can argue about statistics and sampling methods and all that crap if you want, but at the least the numbers make one thing clear: concealed carry laws don't make cities into Wild West bloodbaths, despite what anti-gun advocates may hope for.

    I have OFTEN had discussions on this matter with friends from Australia. Their gun attitude is similar to the UK. It always amazes me how different we are, culturally, on this matter. The Aussies in the office thought the gun-totin' Americans were just INSANE, while we thought they were crazy for not caring about personal freedom, self defense, government control, etc. But we still managed to get along. :)

  • Just because there isn't GNU software out for it doesn't mean that it isn't solved. The gov't is typical years ahead in crypto and other technologies, right?

    Look, I used to work at a gov't shop where they were doing some crazy image-recognition work in the lab next door to mine. They had a table full of Hotwheels cars that they used to test the system. The computer's task was to pick a car out from the "parking lot", having been told what it looks like. You could partially cover the target, rotate it, etc. and the computer nailed it most of the time. This was in the early '90s, in an UNCLASSIFIED lab at JPL. I am sure the CLASSIFIED systems are much more advanced by now!

    The problem ("problem," I should say "salvation") is that for now a computer that is fast enough and smart enough to understand "call the cops when you see THIS person") is too expensive to put on a lightpost. Probably too expensive and classified to be centrally located by a city government. But that isn't going to last. Someday those $99 webcams will have enough logic in them to spot people, license plates, crimes in progress, wayward youth and diaper rash. Then they'll infest our cities.

  • By submitting your DNA without protest, you silently advocate that a criminal's DNA be on file, when he first COMMITS a crime (which is when it is needed)... not after he gets caught.

    So I should just set a good example so the (future) criminal will do as I did?

    If setting a good example works on criminals, then why not just set the good example of obeying the law?

    Criminals don't follow society's rules and expectations -- that's why they are criminals.


    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • "Hmm ... ATGGCAACTGACT ... Why... I know *exactly* who this is!"
    "Alright, who is it?"
    "A mammal!"
  • First of all everyone interested in this thread should check out the book Database Nation [databasenation.com], which discusses DNA testing at some length among other things. Second, where this is going is DNA samples will routinely be taken from all newborns in the hospital at birth. So the DNA database will include everyone, not just criminal subjects. Be very afraid.
  • Let's say for a moment that a crime family has been bribing the local police for years (a situation that is known to occur). Your parents, like all "good" parents, had your DNA catalogued in the national database in case you ere kidnapped. Now suppose that when you are 35, you witness a horrible murder committed by this crime family, and you decide to testify against them. In exchange for testifying, the government places you in the witness protection program giving you a COMPLETELY new identity, including new social security numbers, credit cards, phone number, address, and even a new name. Oh, but wait, the crime family already pulled your DNA fingerprint from the database and as you start your new life is using it to track you down. Thanks to the wonderful fact that DNA is an identifier for your entire life, they track you down and brutally slaughter you and your entire family.

    Oh well, it's just your family, at least it doesn't happen very often.
  • I'd really love to see your average armored division pacify guerillas.

    Open battle is a good way for a resistance movement to get wiped out, true. There are other ways to fight -- just ask the Chechens, the Muhjadeen, the Viet Cong, the Maquis...
  • Nonsense. In a high profile rape case in Australia (an elderly woman was raped and savagely bashed), the entire adult male population of the town where the crime occured volunteered to provide DNA samples. Except one... I believe he tried to flee, but was arrested and eventually convicted.

    The rapist did not flee (from the sampling). He was indeed arrested and convicted.

    The rape and bashing happened on New Years Day 1999, to a woman in her nineties (media sources vary on her exact age). Sixteen months later, the police still hadn't been able to solve the case. The town's male population (~600) was asked to volunteer DNA samples in a public call for help. About 420 were actually sampled, about 20 refused (media sources again vary on exact numbers). The rapist was not one of those who refused, and turned himself in to the police before his sample had even been tested.

    Five months later all but one set of samples (the rapist's) were incinerated under independant witness.

    (data compiled via www.google.com search, a suggested article is http://www.smh.com.au/news/0009/20/text/national16 .html)

    As a sidenote, I hope the UK's genetic database is nowhere near as prone to error and inaccuracy as the news reports I looked at for this post.

  • It is interesting that your "evidence" is so completely irrational.

    That is a silly claim. I present facts regarding cases where it is clearly illustrated that free speech is NOT as well protected in Britain, and you try to dismiss this as irrational. Well, I think that this dismissal is in itself irrational as you have not presented any countering argument to my evidence that the legal protection of free speech in the US is greater than in Britain.

    As far as speaking what you think, there is in any society a social norm as to what is considered polite, and what is considered impolite. Clearly your voicing of your prejudices against America might be considered impolite to your American hosts. Surely Americans get much criticism for voicing their views when visiting other countries. Perhaps you percieve this as lack of freedom of speech. Other people might feel that you are merely being rude and obnoxious.

    In regards to your run-in with the immigration service, well, I too have had problems with petty bureacrats - in many countries. It is universal.

    As far as eToy goes, that was simply a trademark dispute. As such it has NOTHING to do with censorship.

  • Calm down.

    The chances are that you'll soon get to bash the U.S.A. again -- most probably under an MPAA or a patent article.

    Maybe. But just because a few people with poor judgement in positions of authority (government, industry standard setting bodies, major corporations) make a bad decision or two, I won't take it as carte blanche to fire off banal, inaccurate, semi-racist blanket comments at Americans or any one else.

    Thankfully, most Slashdotters have a brain and can distinguish between the few and the many, and don't sully themselves by making xenophobic statements. Freedom of speech is a great thing - but so is using your head.

  • Please moderate the parent comment up.

    In any case, I wouldn't have liked to have been one of the men who refused to take the test. Small towns can get rather nasty in these kinds of situations.

  • If someone else can help me out, I would be glad to hear it.

    Well, I'll offer you my argument, but I doubt it'll be what you expect. :)

    Oh so often I hear that phrase "if i'm not a criminal, I have nothing to hide; therefore, monitoring is fine by me." My issue is this: what if you are a criminal?

    What if you do have something to hide?

    As a criminal, I need to be able to cover my tracks, lest I be arrested. For example, I want to watch DVDs on Linux, but I can't do it legally, anymore. As a generally intelligent, and moral (as in - I don't do things that hurt other people, unless they, within reason, have provoked such a response) human being, I don't think that breaking the encryption on a DVD I've purchased is wrong, so I violate the law. I need to be able to conceal this crime, or I can't get away with it.

    How about when I smoke weed? If the government were allowed to put weed smoke detectors in my house, I would get caught when I did it. That sucks.

    What about (if you'll excuse my crudeness) eating out my girlfriend in Virginia? 5-20 years for that one. In order to stay a productive member of society, and not attend a federal institution, I have to not allow the government to monitor my activities at home.

    Folks, I'm worried about losing my ability to safely commit minor crimes. In this day and age, there are so many bad laws created by religious fools, corporate sponsorship, and plain old misunderstandings, that we often cannot reasonably obey the law. A line must be drawn in a balanced position between the rights of the governing agency, and the rights of the citizen.

    My $0.02.

    --
    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • Not entirely fair. British cuisine is superb: it's just impossible to serve economically in a restaurant without buggering it up completely - so much of it depends on coming straight from the oven to the table that you can't make the pre-preparation economies that restaurants have to make in order to serve food that the mass market can afford.

  • Apparently, Brits don't have the distrust of government that seems inherent in Americans. It just seems amazing to me that people are so willing to trade liberty for (perceived) saftey.

    Well the broad history of Britain has largely been about moving the power from the monarchy to the elected parliament. We still don't have an entirely elected legislature.

    It's a small island. In England, at least, the govenment never seems that far away. There isn't really the idea that the national government is some alien thing.

    That isn't to say that I agree with the legislation. There seems to be a tradition on /. to believe that bills get passed without amendment. Some of the worst provisions of the RIP Bill were removed. I confidently predict that this Bill will be heavily amended.

  • "
    The claim against the effectiveness of CCTV was that it didn't reduce crime, it merely moved it to areas that don't have CCTV.
    "

    It was also that extensive surveying of people demonstrated it didn't make people feel more safe when walking through CCTV areas.

  • No I'm not Chuck Norris, and a far more likely scenario would be that a scumbag comes up behind, sticks a knife against your kidney and reaches for your wallet. How does a gun prevent that? A quick twist of his wrist and the perp drops his knife, looks shit-scared and runs away. Even Chuck Norris wouldn't take on a heavily armed group in real life, his most likely action would be to punch one and run for it.
    Not as exciting as blowing them away with an Uzi, but then you won't get arrested either.
    Finally why do good teeth matter more than good physical condition? You've still failed to answer that.
  • Warning: if your parents brought you to one of those police fingerprint days when you are a kid, your fingerprints are *already* on record. The whole point (or so it seems), is that if you're abducted as a kiddie, etc., that they can find you more easily because they have your fingerprints on record.

    You might want to look into one of those plastic keyboard covers if you are considering keeping your fingertip skin sliced off...

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire

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