Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Quote of the day

” If we cannot learn, if the only effect upon us of the presence of the dynamiter in our midst is to make us multiply punishments, invent restrictions, increase the number of our official spies, forbid public meetings, interfere with the press, put up gratings -- as in one country they propose to do -- in our House of Commons, scrutinize visitors under official microscopes, request them, as at Vienna, and I think now at Paris also, to be good enough to leave their greatcoats in the vestibules ... I venture to prophesy that there lies before us a bitter and an evil time.”

Auberon Edward William Molyneux Herbert (1838—1906) Writer, Philosopher ~ and MP

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Issue of DNA records of the innocent reaches European Court

Did you wonder why Det Supt Stuart Cundy, who led the murder hunt which led to Mark Dixie's conviction, started going on about a compulsory national DNA database the other day? What his agenda might have been?

Unlike Scotland, where they take their civil liberties a wee bit more seriously, In England and Wales if the police arrest you, even if you have done nothing wrong, like the guy with the MP3 player, they will take your DNA and you will go into New Labour’s National DNA database, never to be removed.

This is unlike the tried and tested system with fingerprints where they only keep them if a person is convicted and people don’t mind giving them for elimination purposes because they know they will be destroyed afterwards.

Now the police’s practices with the DNA database is being challenged in the European Court of human rights as an infringement of an individuals right to privacy and anti-discrimination.

This database is scarily already the largest of it’s kind in the whole world.

If they win then the police will have to remove the DNA records from the system of those who have not been convicted and the system will have to work more like the fingerprint system or the Scottish system.

It is quite probable that a compulsory universal DNA database (that the police appear to be covertly working their way towards already) would indeed probably result in a few extra detections, or earlier detections of crimes.

Then again, so would electronically tagging every citizen, at their own expense, with a mini GPS system, camera and Microphone that relayed the info it recorded to a central database would too.

The question is, is the price paid in the loss of your civil liberties worth the benefits of the illusion of safety. DNA evidence can be spoofed, or compromised, by the savvy criminal and it is not always necessarily as reliable as it is imagined to be by the general public.

If they ever do manage to force a compulsory national DNA database on us by some devious means (Passports? ID Cards?). it will be great for the Authoritarians who want to check our every move.

Then there is the good old mission creep factor. What else would they get up to with the information? - One could do racial profiling in the name of medical research for instance…

One thing is certain - before long every junior civil servant and council worker in the country would have access and you could be sure they could not be trusted not to leave millions of records on a bus somewhere, or just loose them.

Best it is stopped. It comes to something when a UK citizen has to appeal to the European court to protect their civil rights from our own Government.

‘Most Wanted Fugitive’ actually innocent German holidaymaker

It just goes to show how much you can rely on facial recognition software.

A German couple on holiday in the Sicilian resort of Taormina last year were mis-identified as James J Bulger, alleged American crime boss, one of the FBI’s most wanted - and his girlfriend Catherine Grieg.

Fortunately the FBI appear to have adopted a more sensible approach since they had pensioner Derek Bond arrested at gunpoint and clapped in irons whilst on a wine tasting holiday in South Africa. They misidentified him as one Derek Sykes, on their most wanted list. It was days before they even bothered to go look at him. He had to agree to extradition to try and sort it out.

It could have been far worse, he could have been in real trouble as happened to a German businessman in 2005, whilst off on holiday going to Macedonia.

He was allegedly arrested, held captive, flown to Afghanistan and tortured - by U.S. government agents after being mistakenly identified as an associate of one of the 7/11 Hijackers.

Oops! Sorry…

Presumably this is the same vaunted biometric technology to be included in Passports and New Labour’s beloved ID card system and database. The same facial recognition software that was trialled last year as a part of a airport security and hailed as a success.

Knowing it’s going to be there ready to misidentify you as a dangerous gangster, or a terrorist should make you feel so much more secure – doesn’t it?