Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A bad idea

Currently the government is planning a massive expansion of its DNA database with the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill. Meanwhile, faced with a similar policy of mass databasing and DNA fishing in the UK, Charles Stross explains why its a bad idea. The short version:

  1. The database will be a big, fat target for every hacker on the planet, and police are constitutionally incapable of proper computer security;
  2. It is already possible for anyone with basic equipment and skills to whip up unlimited quantities of DNA for a particular sequence.

Together these suggest a nightmare scenario of corrupting the database and/or framing people (and the more ubiquitous the database is, the greater the incentives and ability to do either). On the plus side, this will eventually make such databases practically useless, just another part of the Net Of A Million Lies. But the process of learning that lesson is going to involve deep unpleasantness for some people, and almost certainly some innocent people going to jail on evidence that is no longer as cast iron as it is believed to be.