Would a universal DNA database lead to a police state?
Various dystopias such as '1984' and 'Minority Report' have put the case against universal surveillance.
The fact is that CCTV cameras have already been put in place to deter crime, if not universally, at least in a widespread manner. Speed cameras are well established as a means of controlling the speed of cars on our highways. Motorists don't like them because they perceive them as simply revenue-collecting devices. They recognize that it is not speed that causes accidents, but inappropriate speed for the conditions. 70 mph may be too fast in some conditions but too slow in others. Remember (in the UK at least) the 70 mph limit was introduced during the 1970's oil crisis to save gas. If cameras were used to check average speed over a larger distance - say between toll gates - (stopping the widespread practice of speeding up between cameras) they would be even more unpopular. The answer to that is more appropriate speed controls. Finding out the truth is always preferable to living a lie. Other cameras are present on our roads to monitor traffic flow. Although their primary purpose is to avoid traffic snarl-ups by issuing warnings on radio and by sign, they also prove to be very useful for catching fleeing fugitives.
Businesses and public authorities install cameras to protect their property and deter vandalism. The fact is that such cameras also prove useful to the police in establishing the path taken by victims and their attackers.
Telephone tapping and the installation of audio-bugs to detect criminals is under the strict supervision of a judge or parliament. Improper use will be rapidly pounced upon by the press. No minister could withstand such a charge in the public view.
DNA evidence is less intrusive than any of these. It cannot be used as the only evidence that supports a prosecution - there may be other explanations as to why someone's DNA is found at a crime scene, but such a finding is a legitimate reason for questioning someone.
In the US there are already non-criminals who are on such a database - members of the armed services, for example. Despite the comments on my last posting I still can't see a reason for fearing a universal DNA database.
Let’s take the objections one at a time:
Perhaps the police should be able to randomly pluck people from the streets, and try to beat confessions out of them. Only the guilty need be afraid!
Arresting someone implicated by DNA evidence is not a random pick-up. Cops no longer beat up criminals – if they do they are sent to prison. They too are subject to video surveillance when interviewing suspects. Evidence obtained by tortue is of no value. DNA evidence often obviates the nee for a confession.
Perhaps the police could administer drugs to random pick-ups off the street.
Administering drugs to obtain cofessions is also outlawed.
Everyone should be under surviellance at all times. Every move, every action would be analyzed by the State for possible wrong-doing.
I don’t believe that anyone is envisioning anything like that. Why would they want to?
Here is an example of what it might be used for. A 9-yeasr old girl is missing from her home in Dewsbury for 48 hours. CCTV footage shows her leaving her school and heading north, but after that nothing. Was she abducted? Did she run away? More CCTV footage might have given an answer.
Perfect security and safety could exist if 1/4 of the population was engaged in monitoring everyone. (Even the watchers would be watched.)
Common sense dictates that no such police state necessarily follows from more CCTV cameras and a national DNA database.
What guarantees our freedom is not withholding technology from the law enforcement agencies, but a free press, an independent judiciary, a multi-party state and eternal vigilance.