Feeds

Citizen's panels to put DNA database under microscope

Government wants to ignore a wider range of opinion

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The government is bankrolling a massive “citizen’s inquiry” that will see its DNA database policies scrutinised by panels of “ordinary” people, including criminals and youngsters, instead of scientists and legal professionals.

The process, due to report in the spring, is being led by the Human Genetics Commission and will be funded to the tune of £75,000. It will see two panels of 30 people each meeting over a six-week period, to “direct their own research into the forensic use of DNA centred on the police national DNA database”.

Each panel will be advised by ten “experts” from different sides of the debate, including scientists, academics and law enforcement and criminal officials, along with people who work with young people and offenders. The panels can then call their own “witnesses” and will hold group sessions of up to 200 people.

By the end of the process the panels will have developed reports, which will not necessarily contain a single opinion or conclusion. The final results will be fed into the Human Genetics Commission’s own report to the government on forensic use of DNA.

The inquiry comes amidst increasing concerns over the UK’s DNA database, which currently stands at four million samples. Worries range from concerns about the wide range of circumstances in which police can oblige citizens to give DNA samples, to the fact that young black men are over-represented in the database.

Bano Murtuja, director of Vis-à-vis, the consultancy which is running the program, said it was not simply a case of eliciting the population’s opinions on the use of DNA. “It’s difficult to get people’s opinions when they’re not informed,” she said.

She explained the aim was to include people with “real life” experience of the government’s DNA policies – including young offenders and those at risk of offending - as well as those who wouldn't even dream of breaking the speed limit and are unlikely to end up on the wrong end of a cheek swab.

She rejected the suggestion that the exercise may be seen as a pop science exercise more worthy of one of Channel 4’s minor productions. "It would be that sort of approach if we were doing it over an evening – but we’re not."

Murtuja said the panels would be talking and thinking about the issues over 11 to 12 weeks. “They’ll get to hear about all sides of the debate,” she said.

The government is putting up half of the cost of the project, with other funding coming from the Human Genetics Commission, the Wellcome Trust and other backers. ®

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.