Personal data held by the state

A landmark case is being heard in the European Court of Human Rights today. Two British men who were arrested for a crime but later released without charge are challenging the police’s legal right to keep samples of their DNA and their fingerprints on file.

It’s a huge debate here in Britain this week since DNA evidence was crucial in securing the conviction of two murderers.

Advocates argue that a national database that holds samples of DNA would be instrumental in solving crimes. But critics say it’s a violation of a person’s civil liberties. What do you think?

Some countries, such as France and Canada, have legislated to prevent the retention of DNA samples from those acquitted of crimes. If you live in a country where DNA samples are kept on record, would you like to see the law changed? And we’re also not just talking about DNA, what about other pieces of information about you; how much of that should the authorities be allowed to hold on to?

9 Responses to “Personal data held by the state”

  1. 1 Free Oregon
    February 28, 2008 at 14:48

    Life would be peaches and cream if we could trust our Governments.

    Unfortunately, we cannot trust Government because Governments are made up of human beings who possess all the same emotions, foibles, and faults of the criminals from whom we would like to be protected.

    No government can be trusted with a database of personal information.

    That two murderers have been convicted does not justify Governments holding information on millions of its citizens.

    We live in a time when Governments around the world are failing. We cannot trust them. Even the United States is a failed state. We cannot look to Governments and so-called “experts” for solutions because these are the very people who have caused the problems we face.

    In other words, leave my DNA alone! You aren’t able to protect me, so I don’t need to give you my data.

    More people have been killed by those who want save the world than by those who are inherently evil.

    What we need is for Governments to leave us alone, to get out of our way, so that we can begin to solve the challenges they have bequeathed to us, without interference. If solving those challenges involves DNA we certainly are capable of figuring out how to use it without the unhelpful hand of Government.

  2. 2 Will Rhodes
    February 28, 2008 at 16:27

    Free Oregon: No government can be trusted with a database of personal information.

    I applaud you! You are correct. We have governments now that are still in the mindset of the 19th and early 20th century – they have no idea what the world is really like out there – if they did have any vision they would visit as many bloggings as possible.

    All governments pander to small lobby groups rather then the majority of the populace – and society is failing because of it. We once had leaders who led, now we have cronies who simply follow, which as we know, is unacceptable.

    They cannot be trusted with DNA, the British government have proved this with the loss of many a-laptop and the personal information of millions of people.

    What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? The British were the advocates of this for an age – but now that premise has bitten the dust. I once thought that Thatcher and her abysmal time in office was bad, the last 10 years of a so-called Labour government has been disastrous for the British people and their civil liberties.

    I was one for never having a written constitution in the UK – now my thoughts have changed. Britain should have one and one where the liberty of the people must be paramount.

  3. February 28, 2008 at 16:30

    I think the government should have little data on any human being, some times you have to be private.

  4. 4 dave
    February 28, 2008 at 17:55

    yep in agreement here

    the UK govt have shown time and time again that they are incapable of holding databes on anything…three or four times this year data has either gone missing or sat around in a civil servants office

    and then there is the civil liberty argument. Can we fundamentally trust the state??

    I think not!

    Dave, UK

  5. 5 Thomas Murray
    February 28, 2008 at 23:49

    Hey Buds,

    My first reaction to this is that anyone who’s innocent of a crime shouldn’t have to worry about their status in the government’s library of human DNA. But that’s just the sentiment of a trusting semi-occasional federal worker.

    Then I went poking about in “The Federalist Papers.” Something I read in there, a long time ago, kept nagging me. Then I found it:

    Paper 46. By James Madison. Somewhere in the second half:

    “Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other country in the world…forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition…”

    By ambition, Madison meant the ambitions of warlords and foreign governments. Yet what remains so cheerily ambiguous about this sentence is that it could also apply to the ambitions of our own government.

    This is part of the reason for our right to bear arms.

    Fingerprinting is mandatory for just about any government or teaching position in the states. But attorneys here would spit fire if they proposed keeping innocent DNA on record, citing a legal domino effect called “the slippery slope.”

    Yes, we are a violent nation overburdened with too many laws, longest prison sentences, with per capita the largest incarcerated population on earth, but for all of that, any citizen previously undomiciled by our legal system has only his driver’s license photo on police file.

    It is for that reason perhaps that many a murderer has been let go.

    But, presently, our system of human rights is hanging on by its fingernails under the constant probative disarticulation by the Bush administration’s fixation on anti-terrorism legislation.

    So it is for our protection that the Frankenstein monster that is the modern state, will not suffer a nervous breakdown and start eating its own assets on the conveyor belt of national paranoia, either by mistake…or on purpose…or again.

    This should be a no-brainer for the European Court.

    –Regards, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

    PS: I’ve contracted the flu last Friday and have been in bed for a week, away from the terminals in the public library.

  6. 6 George USA
    February 29, 2008 at 00:40

    In the last 7 years I have seen government used to intentionally harm citizens, just for the sake of harming them.

    Reality is now such that government is used to oppress citizens, does so intentionally, and those who do this will continue to do so.

    No, DNA sampling of the population will only be used for harm, not good.


    The unjust hate and fear justice,

    but revel in the pretense of justice,

    which they use for their own ends.

  7. 7 Adam in Portland by email
    February 29, 2008 at 10:29

    As a former police officer Im torn
    on this one. Collections of data are very usefull for solving crimes. However personal liberties must not be compromised or we no longer live in free countries. I say the state must not keep data on innocent people.

    adam in portland, usa

  8. 8 Dennis by email
    February 29, 2008 at 10:42

    the state (government) should have limited access on personal data…..

    Madrid, United States of America

  9. 9 John in Germany
    February 29, 2008 at 11:25

    Hi Rabiya.

    No problem, i believe that if i have done nothing wrong i have nothing to fear, but as none of us are perfect a break should be applied. Data may be taken and kept only after a person is committed and sentenced for a criminal act. And i don’t mean for driving to fast down the motorways, A completely neutral control body would maintain a strict watch of the whole process. No automatic transfer of data to other authorities should take place unless requested through the control authority, and no data should be automatically forwarded to finance authorities, unless the person involved has been supporting terrorists, or other adverse systems.

    You see Big Brother is already here, but at least we should control him.

    Have a nice day
    John in Germany

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