DNA database, a paranoid wibble

It all sounds so logical, doesn’t it? A national DNA database, into which the DNA record of every person living in, visiting or passing through the UK is stored. A foolproof means of detecting the identity of anyone at any time at any scene, and a perfect way of catching criminals. How could that be wrong? The same with CCTV surveillance; if you’re not doing anything wrong why worry that your every move is monitored? Loyalty cards? Credit cards? Bus passes? How many ways are we tracked already as we wend our way through this modern life? The National ID card and electronically enabled passports have a few folk up in arms, but many other folk seem to think they’ll be of value in the almost brand-named and impossible to win ‘war on terror’. And implanted-at-birth RFI chips… they’re bound to be great too, aren’t they? Imagine not having to carry those cards, passports, or even car and house keys, if your very presence was all it took to validate an identity, a purchase or a door entry.

Or is it another ramping up of the slippery slope? One more notch up the incline that might cause our feet to loose grip and send us into Totalitarian oblivion. All the above examples of minor losses of personal privacy follow on, one from the other. If we accept one (and we’ve already accepted several) then the rest must surely follow. It’s an almost impossible subject to consider, debate it as you like. A grey area, in which the best answer is not to ask the question. In the face of uncertainty, take no action. Or leap, and hope.

DNA information is so perfect, isn’t it? No smidgeon of doubt can exist, it’s foolproof. Unless there’s an error, unless you are a tetragametic chimera, unless someone’s swabbed you and left evidence (did you wash that glass out yourself when you drank at the pub last night?). Or unless you are perhaps a subversive, a free-thinker, an inconvenience… But of course, you won’t be, because you’ll have been monitored so closely by all the other means that you’ll never have committed that transgression before the switch was pulled; before the cards suddenly failed to operate, the doors frustratingly failed to open, the [ID card / RFI chip / cheek swab] failed to register (and you were found to be an illegal alien, condemned by your very presence and locked away for the good of society)…

And then again, even if it were perfect, how many families will encounter evidence of matrimonial … inconsistency? How many folk will find their kids are not their own. Oh, we’re back to chimera again, and I suspect a fair few politicians may need to follow this train of thought a bit before they cast their vote in the government lobbies. What a tangled web we weave…

We currently have a partial DNA database. It mostly contains the records of guilty folk. Indeed, the implication of being on the database is seen by many as proof of a past wrongdoing. But there are many, many details on there of innocent parties, of witnesses, of unidentified persons… There are calls for all children to be swabbed, likewise all immigrants… it is inconceivable that a database should exist at all without everyone being subjected to an equal loss of privacy. Thus should the database become 100% inclusive. We could even share, or incorporate, our own national database with other governments. That way we would be able to follow suspects across borders, across the world. As someone operating within the law (well, of this land at least and in broad terms (did you exceed the speed limit today?)) I have nothing to hide, and therefore nothing to fear. But as a free-thinker with a tendency to follow trails of thought and with a cynical view of society I feel the urge to return to payment in cash, to start habitually wearing gloves, and to worry more about where my ever more thinning hair falls…


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