Mon, 22 Jul 2013

Commencement day of DNA provisions of the Protection of Freedom Act in October

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office Lord Taylor of Holbeach has eventually made an order – The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Commencement No. 7) Order 2013 – to commence the provisions in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which relate to the destruction, retention and use of material including fingerprints, DNA samples and DNA profiles. These provisions will be commenced on 2013-10-31. A few provisions relating to the destruction of copies of fingerprints which will commence only on 2014-01-31.

One section which is not commenced by this order is section 22 about the 'Guidance on making national security determinations'.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach also made the order Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Destruction, Retention and Use of Biometric Data) (Transitional, Transitory and Saving Provisions) Order 2013 that deals with the destruction, retention and use of biometric data retained before the moment the DNA provisions of the Protections of Freedom Act are effectively commenced.

In the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing bill committee, Damien Green, pointed out that 'In preparation for the implementation of the Protection of Freedoms Act, 7.7 million samples taken to produce DNA profiles have now been destroyed.' Here is the updated table, first published in the post 1,136,000 DNA profiles and 6,341,000 samples gone, but stealth DNA database of everyone being planned:

  2012-03-04 2012-03-19 2013-05-20 2013-07-16
DNA profile deletions 504,000 504,000 1,136,000  
DNA sample destructions 439,000 453,000 6,341,000 7.7 million
Source: Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill committee 203-07-16, Ministerial statement 2013-05-20, Parliamentary written answer 2013-03-21, Ministerial statement 2013-03-04

Analysis of biological samples to become costly for the defence

In the committee, Damien Green, explained that Clause 10 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing bill will amend the Protection of Freedoms Act to ensure biological samples that becomes relevant to disputed issues in court proceedings have not been destroyed by the time those proceedings take place:

[The Protection of Freedom Act] requires biological samples of all types to be destroyed, including blood, semen, urine, saliva, hair and skin swabs. That affects not only samples used for adding profiles to the DNA database, but those used for purposes such as testing for drug and alcohol use, violent and sexual contact between suspects and victims, and exposure to chemicals such as those associated with explosives, firearms or drug production.

Note that access to the analysis of these biological samples may become costly to the defence. 'Most material held by the prosecution was previously provided free to the defence during disclosure of evidence' writes Owen Bowcott in the Guardian, but due to changes in charging practices following the dissolution of the state-backed Forensic Science Services (FSS) last year, 'several forensic science companies have recently changed billing practices, demanding up to £800 a day, for example, from experts hired by the defence'. (See also The [Justice] Gap for an analysis of these rising costs by Peter Glenser). This is put succinctly by commenter mschin1: 'You mean that I could be forced to pay for information about my own DNA to prove my innocence? You really couldn't make this up.'

Draft guidance on early deletion of DNA and fingerprint records

The Home Office has issued a consultation on its draft Guidance on early deletion of DNA and fingerprint records set to replace the Exceptional Case Procedure. Deadline for the consultation is 2013-07-29. The guidance will come into effect in October.

First published on 2013-07-22; last updated on 2013-07-23 to add a link to the consultation.

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Wed, 10 Jul 2013

Labelled potential terrorist

Cory Doctorow mentioned my arrest in one of his recent Guardian column on Prism and in some corrections in a Boing Boing post. Cory concludes:

You should care about privacy because if the data says you've done something wrong, then the person reading the data will interpret everything else you do through that light. [...] Once a computer ascribes suspiciousness to someone, everything else in that person's life becomes sinister and inexplicable.

This is why I fought so hard to expunge my records and help fight for other innocents as well.

Quebecois journalist Stéphane Vaillancourt expanded on this theme in Attention! Vos gadgets vous épient sans cesse published on Canoë:

Étiqueté «terroriste potentiel»

Une fois les informations recueillies, il ne reste plus qu'à les jumeler aux données publiques (caméras dans les transports ou lieux publics) et surveiller les comportements jugés suspects, comme l'a appris à ses dépens David Mery, en 2005, alors que la police de Londres était sur les dents, peu de temps après un attentat dans le métro. Le problème, c'est qu'une fois une personne étiquetée « terroriste potentiel », on interprète tout geste, tout acte comme étant suspect. Une fois la personne arrêtée, même si une erreur est admise par la suite, son nom demeure dans les registres pendant un bon bout de temps (9 à 10 ans, dans ce cas-ci), l'empêchant de voyager ou, simplement, de vivre une vie normale.

Si vous n'avez rien à cacher...

Le fameux prétexte voulant que « si vous ne faites rien de mal, vous n'avez alors rien à cacher » est plutôt douteux, à la lumière de l'histoire de David Mery (et probablement de plusieurs autres).

Que dire alors, si l'on suit cette logique, de ceux qui décident de ne pas avoir de compte Facebook? Ceux qui ne publient jamais de photo d'eux ou ne font jamais de «check-in» sur les réseaux sociaux? Est-ce que désirer conserver un peu de vie privée serait devenu un comportement suspect?

Stéphane's last question about whether to strive to retain some privacy is now considered suspicious behaviour has been answered positively in at least two occasions by the German police and the French Home Affair minister as I explained a few years ago in The mobile phone as self-inflicted surveillance – If you don't have one, what have you got to hide?.

Bootnote 1 The travel restrictions mentioned by both Cory and Stéphane are limited to the USA. See Innocent in the UK, unwelcomed in the USA for more details.

Bootnote 2 Two other, even more illogical, labels that have been used as captions in TV interviews: 'Former suspect', 'Mistaken suspect'.

Former suspect

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