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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

South Australia: keeping DNA on file just in case.....

In South Australia recently a magistrate dismissed charges against a person because Police, contrary to law, had retained DNA information in connection with an earlier charge that had been dismissed and used this information to lay new charges on an unrelated matter.

The Government’s response was to announce that the law would be changed to enable the Police to retain DNA samples. According to the Advertiser this will give South Australia a larger DNA database than anywhere in the world. outside the UK.

The Premier said this made sense: those with nothing to hide had nothing to fear.

It now turns out that the Police knew they were acting illegally in retaining the information contrary to the law.

I don’t know where all this leaves long and complicated efforts to establish national rules about access to a national DNA database. The Federal Attorney General’s Department took years to lead the states and territories through this process. Here is a link some information about that process.

It’s interesting that about the same time that the SA Premier issued his “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” proclamation, the Victorian Privacy Commissioner devoted a significant part of his Law Week speech on the Value of Privacy 1 June (page 16) to debunk this idea.

Its also an issue in Canada and the US. (Thanks to David Fraser's Canada Privacy blog)

The Victorian Privacy Commissioner concluded that as governments ask for more personal information from the public, we should ask more questions.
"Insist on proportionality. Verify that promised safeguards are enshrined in law and can be enforced. Trust, but cautiously. Keep an eye on your governments".

Good luck to those in South Australia.

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