No DNA without discussion
by Rohan Gowland The NSW Carr Government is intending to introduce DNA database collection legislation during the current session of parliament, warned Justice Action, a social justice lobby group. A small but important rally organised by Justice Action was held outside Parliament House in Sydney last Thursday to protest against the legislation which would enable police to forcibly take a sample of people's DNA. In the present climate where police powers generally are being strengthened, compulsory DNA collection is something to be concerned about. If the State owns your DNA, it could be said they own you, too. Privacy is a main issue, along with capitalist exploitation of DNA information. The formation of DNA databases on computer is a frightening prospect because they can be easily accessed and passed on to other government agencies or the private sector. In the private sector, health insurance companies have been extremely interested in getting people's genetic records. For instance, with your DNA, it is possible to tell if you have any genetic weaknesses, such as a likelihood of developing cancer, heart problems or other illnesses later in life. This information, if made available to health insurance companies, could enable them to weed out the people who are more likely to make an insurance claim. Employers might also be interested in your DNA for job selection/rejection purposes. While the police can put DNA information to good uses, such as forensic evidence to solve crimes, its collection on data banks is considered by many as an invasive act that shows disregard for the rights of individuals. Apart from possible misuse by police, the database could also find its way into the hands of others. Justice Action said that several US states allow DNA data collected by the police to be onsold to universities and corporate researchers. The government of Iceland has already sold the DNA database of its entire population to a drug research company without the people's permission. In New Zealand, the DNA of crime victims is taken and used by police to try to link them to unsolved murders. In NSW, DNA extracted from Red Cross blood donors has been used in criminal trials without their consent or knowledge, said Justice Action. "Laws preventing the abuse of citizens' DNA data are urgently needed in this state", said Brett Collins from Justice Action. "DNA technology will see unimaginable changes to out society over the next few decades", said Michael Strutt, also from Justice Action. "The laws governing it are far too important to be developed in a Cabinet backroom and pushed through a late night sitting of parliament", he said.