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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Should your DNA be archived for ever?

    The Open Rights Group (ORG) and Sky News both reports calls from "Boffins" (Sky News) or - more precisely, "the Nuffield Council on Bioethics" for a change in the law to stop the police keeping DNA samples from innocent people. As ORG says,

    The authors emphasised balancing ethical values, such as liberty, autonomy and privacy, against the database’s benefits to law-enforcement. The headlines echo our own submission to the review:

    • Only people convicted of a crime should be permanently recorded, except those charged with serious violent or sexual offences.
    • Police should not be given powers to sample and store DNA, without consent, from people arrested for ‘non-recordable’ offences.
    • Those who volunteer their DNA (e.g. witnesses) should be able to request - without providing a reason - the removal of their DNA.
    • Unless there is a good reason to preserve it, children’s DNA should be removed from the NDNAD on request.
    • Lawyers and juries should be given more help to understand the meaning of DNA evidence.
    • Familial searching should not be practiced unless it is necessary and proportionate.
    • Ethnic inferences should not be part of routine procedure.
    • The NDNAD should have an independent ethics and governance framework.
    • The regulation of all forensic databases, including oversight of research and other access requests, should be given statutory basis.
    While Nuffield accept that the database fulfills a valuable function in the fight against crime, they believe that only the DNA from the convicted should be archived. Others feel that their report does not go far enough:

    Terri Dowty (ARCH) argued that children must be given the right to exclude their own DNA from the register, rather than depending on their - not always reliable - guardians and the courts to aid in the removal of their genetic make-up. Helen Wallace (Genewatch) argued, in line with the Human Genetics Commission, against costly preservation of samples once the necessary profiles are extracted.

    The Home Office is evaluating the situation and will pronounce on the issue in December 2007.

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