In May 2009, the Government published a consultation called ‘Keeping the right people on the database: Science and public protection.'
On this mater which has dominated the news and the blogosphere, they received only 503 formal responses. Seriously, if the blogosphere wants to change the world, it needs to direct people to respond to those who make the descisions. You don't even need to lift your arse off a chair and find a stamp! I emailed in this quickly written response:
If a person is not found guilty or never charged, their DNA and Fingerprints should be removed and destroyed from any Government database as soon as practically possible.
The only possible exception to this is if their biometric information can be safely encrypted and stored as a "one way hash".
At the moment it is trivially easy to forge fingerprints. In the future it will be just as easy to forge DNA evidence. With direct access to raw fingerprint and DNA sample I believe that the temptation to "reuse" the evidence will be too strong.
By this, I mean police taking a copy of the raw DNA evidence and planting it in order to secure a (unsafe) conviction.
If the evidence is stored as the function of a one-way-hash, there is a reduced possibility that this can be misused.
If the proposals to indefinitely store biometric information goes ahead, I would like to see it store the biometric information of all Members of Parliament, Senior Police Officers and those likely to come in to contact with the database. The only way to secure this information is if those in charge of it have a vested interest in keeping it secure.
I do not know how you propose to record responses to this consultation - but I would like this message to be counted in the "against retention of innocents' data" column.
On the 11th of November, they wrote back:
Thank you for taking the time to respond to the consultation paper titled “Keeping the Right People on the Database: Science and Public Protection” that closed on the 7th August 2009. The consultation intended to promote public debate on how long we should retain fingerprints and DNA setting out the benefits of DNA and fingerprints in detecting offenders and helping to bring them to justice.The summary of responses to the consultation paper is published today and is available on the Home Office website www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-2009-dna-database/. The paper also sets out the Governments proposals for implemeting [sic] the judgment [sic] of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S and Marper and for improving the governance and accountability around biometric data.
The response is certainly a step forward. I would have like to have seen a substantial reduction in the length of time DNA is stored. I wonder what response they would have published if everyone who blogged and twittered about the consultation had taken 15 minutes to write a note?