James Forsyth James Forsyth

The DNA debate

Do read Alasdair Palmer’s provocative and tightly argued case for a DNA database. The nub of his argument is that there’s no the difference between the state having a photo of your face courtesy of your passport and one of your DNA.  He writes:

“Most people react to the state’s photo database with a shrug: they have my photo? Big deal. And yet many of the same people also feel profoundly threatened by the Government’s DNA database, asserting that it really is an assault on privacy, liberty and the presumption of innocence. This is deeply puzzling. A record of your DNA is simply the equivalent of a photo of the inside of one of your cells. Why get worried about that – but not about a picture of your face? I have yet to come across any reason for thinking that it is more destructive of liberty and privacy for the government to keep a record of the intricate chemical mechanism that reproduces your cells than it is for it to keep your photo.”

Instinctively, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a DNA database. But Palmer’s column does make me question whether my view is emotional rather than logical. Certainly, I remember when the United States started finger-printing and photographing you every time you entered the country, I used to have a gut dislike of being fingerprinted and not mind been photographed when there’s really little difference between the two procedures.  

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