By supporting a national DNA database, you are supporting governmental
I could argue that it is **you** who is endorsing tyranny by trying to thwart
measures that would help to prevent millions of crimes (some of them by state
officials) and which would also help to prevent millions of people suffering
from terrible diseases.
And for what reason do you do this? Simply because you fear that somebody
in official circles, one day, might want to do something bad to
Besides which, do you really think that the majority of people are going to
worry about what the state **might** do to **some** people given the huge
benefits that they would gain in the future from having their DNA on a database?
There is just far too much to gain by using such
CCTV, face-recognition, DNA analysis etc etc are already creeping up on us.
Their implementation and development might be delayed by activism, but no-one is
actually going to stop this. There is just far too much to gain by using such
Now, civil liberties activists can either keep saying NO NO NO to every piece
of new recognition technology - and not getting anywhere - always losing their
arguments, bit by bit - or they can say RIGHT, let's have a look at this
technology very closely and make damn sure that the citizens are protected from
any abuses of power that could arise from using it.
In other words, those concerned about civil liberties should be saying YES to
the technology, but demanding the means to be able to scrutinise most thoroughly
Here, for example, is a credit card disaster ...
It is a prime nightmare of the digital age: all of your personal
information — credit card numbers, home address, Social Security number — stolen
and passed around, or perhaps even posted on the Internet for anyone to see.
link now defunct
... but do you really think that people are going to stop wanting to use
their credit cards?
Are they not amazingly useful devices for saving us time and helping the
economy to flow?
Are we going to step backwards and backwards in time to a cash-only economy?
Do civil libertarians want us to ignore the benefits of technology because
oftentimes informational systems might be abused?
Do we get rid of computers because there are hackers?
Of course not.
The way forward is clearly not to abandon credit cards, but to develop better
safeguards. And opposing the creation of a DNA database is a bit like opposing
And my point is that we shouldn't be opposing either - because they are both
extremely valuable information tools.
Instead, we should be demanding damn good safeguards.
In the not-to-distant future, many more diseases will be preventable or
curable through some form of treatment that interacts directly with the
chemistry of the body. And whether it is cancer or the common cold, the DNA of a
person will be very relevant to dealing with it. The more that we get to know
about diseases and DNA, the more relevant to dealing with them will a person's
DNA be seen to be.
there will come a point where people will be rushing to
put themselves on to a DNA database
And there will come a point where people will be rushing to put themselves on
to a DNA database because it will provide them with a great deal of protection.
For example, you can be certain that sometime in the near future wealthy folk
will be paying most handsomely for their DNA to be stored in some private
medical database so that they can be informed about developments that might
affect the health of themselves or their families?
Of course they will do this.
And then poorer folk will demand such things.
And, just like credit cards, it is going to happen.
You mention Ruby Ridge and Waco etc as examples of governmental abuses of
power. But these are absolutely piffling in comparison to the hundreds of
thousands of serious violent crimes that take place every year, and to the
millions of people suffering from debilitating diseases.
I do not need convincing that governments ...
to abuse their powers forever into the future
And I do not need convincing that governments can abuse their
powers, that governments have abused their powers and that
governments will continue to abuse their powers forever into the
future if they are given the chance.
My point is that if civil liberties activists join together and always
create hell of a fuss over matters to do with freedom of speech, and
always scream blue murder if they are denied access to information, and
always create merry hell if people are prevented from communicating with
others then their activities will be focused on the three most important
things that will prevent governments
from abusing their powers.
If everything that governments do can be properly scrutinised right down to
the last detail then they cannot abuse their powers. And the same goes for
everyone else who might abuse their powers.
The key to preventing people from abusing their powers is to make information
about their activities completely open to scrutiny. Period. End of story. There
is no other way.
In fact, the more powerful are people or organisations, the more scrutiny
they should receive.
Indeed, being subjected to more scrutiny should always be the price of
gaining more power.
And so when civil liberties activists keep droning on about CCTV, DNA, face
recognition, ID cards, Homeland Security, TIA and goodness know what else -
forever into the future; with a brand new outburst every time that there is a
new piece of technology - and we all start hearing, yet again, about Ruby Ridge,
Waco and the Founding Fathers, I would say this to them.
the spread of information is the key.
In order to protect themselves from those in power, the spread
of information is the key.
Let me give you an example.
CCTV seems to be a problem for certain people.
But one solution, for example, could be that wherever digital CCTV cameras
are employed to monitor the streets or particular events - such as public
demonstrations - perhaps the law should require them to feed the information
that is captured and recorded not only to the police but also to some
independent citizen-oriented bodies over which the police have absolutely no
Wouldn't this be the best way to satisfy civil libertarians and
As it stands, however, we have the state - the police -
quite rightly saying that in order to do their job properly they must be
able to gather detailed information so that they can prevent crimes and
capture those who perpetrate them. And so they want to have CCTV.
the other hand, the civil liberties activists do not want CCTV because,
quite rightly, they want to protect their liberties and also prevent the
police from abusing the power that CCTV would give them.
have good arguments.
However, in my opinion, feeding CCTV information both to
the police and to independent citizen-oriented bodies would
solve many of the problems. Not all of them, but most of them.
such a system would protect both
ordinary citizens and
the police officers
Indeed, such a system would protect
both ordinary citizens and the police officers -
who, one must point out, are not only very often the
specific targets of assaults, but who are also on the receiving end of
countless numbers of false allegations.
But it is ordinary citizens
who would gain the most.
Let me put it this way: If you were taking
part in a public demonstration being 'shepherded' by the police - i.e. the
state - under which of the following circumstances would you feel the most
1. No CCTV at all.
2. CCTV cameras feeding information
only to the police department.
3. CCTV cameras feeding information
to the police department and to independent citizen-oriented bodies.
Look at these above three possibilities as a metaphor for what I am
talking about in general when it comes to the need to spread information,
and ask yourself which would make you feel the most secure; 1, 2 or 3?
Well. With civil liberties activists continually arguing for number 1, we
have, in fact, more or less ended up with number 2 - the very road to
George Orwell's 1984 nightmare.
And the reason that this Orwellian
nightmare is already happening (e.g. Homeland Security) is precisely
because there are many strong arguments for number 2, but
very few strong arguments for number 1 - well, at least, as judged
by most people. And the reason that we do not get number 3 is precisely
because civil liberties activists do not seem particularly keen to
argue for number 3 - and so number 3 does not get argued for!
But, in my view, number 3 above gives us the best chance for the future.
a. It allows for the development of a technology that is extremely
b. It helps the state to carry out its function of
maintaining law and order - something which most people want.
c. It helps to protect the ordinary citizen from any abuses of power by
the state - or, indeed, from others.
d. It also helps to protect the
Putting all this rather bluntly: Most civil liberties
activists are actually bringing about the very nightmare that they fear
Yep. They are actually promoting it.
And they are actually promoting this nightmare by failing to argue for