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Privacy: Canada So-So, Britain Ridiculously Bad

From the CBC today:
Privacy International, a watchdog group that studies government and business surveillance and privacy practices, rated 36 countries, including 25 EU member states, on 13 national practices.

The practices included statutory and constitutional protections, the use of ID cards and closed circuit TV cameras. The countries were given a ranking from one to five — five points denoting no invasive policies, and one point for extensive surveillance.

Germany (3.9) was ranked the highest, followed by Canada (3.6). They were the only two listed in the category of "significant protections and safeguards."

China and Malaysia (1.3) ranked at the bottom, followed by Singapore and Russia (1.4), and the U.K. (1.5).

The U.S. scored a 2, putting it in the "extensive surveillance society" category. In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the U.S. was ranked the worst in the democratic world.
It goes on to state some chilling statistics in Britain:

Every person, on average, is viewed by 300 cameras a day. Police use facial and license plate recognition technology to track anyone who looks suspicious.

British police are also allowed to demand DNA samples from anyone they detain, even if they haven't been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

Authorities hold more than 3.5 million sub-samples — the largest DNA databank in the world.

The British police can demand a DNA sample from anyone they detain? WTF? Does the word 'gestapo' enter anyone else's head?

But it gets way worse than that. The police also have the right to keep the DNA forever. In a case of mind boggling injustice, an 11 year old boy had his DNA taken after being arrested for attempted burglary. After being acquitted, his lawyers asked that the samples be destroyed and were denied. And so what do the British police do with all this unethically obtained genetic information? Well, what would you do with the most sensitive information on the citizens of your country whom you are sworn to protect - contract out to a private company to analyze the data of course!

From The Observer:
The security of the police National DNA Database is in question following the disclosure of confidential emails which reveal that a private firm has secretly been keeping the genetic samples and personal details of hundreds of thousands of arrested people.

Police forces use the company LGC to analyse DNA samples taken from people they arrest. LGC then supplies the information to the National DNA Database. Yet rather than destroy this afterwards, the firm has kept copies, together with highly personal demographic details of the individuals including their names, ages, skin colour and addresses.

Ok, so there's that, which is really bad. Unethical scientists with illegally obtained human genetic information. But...wait for it...it gets even worse:

In a separate twist, evidence has emerged that the Home Office has given permission for a controversial genetic study to be undertaken using the DNA samples on the police database to see if it is possible to predict a suspect's ethnic background or skin colour from them. Permission has been given for the DNA being collected on the police database to be used in 20 research studies.

Cool! Unethical scientists and corrupt politicians!

With almost 3 million samples, Britain's DNA database is the largest in the world, as police are allowed to retain DNA from anyone arrested whether or not they are found guilty of a crime. It contains more than 50,000 DNA samples taken from children. As the database has grown, ministers have reassured MPs and civil liberties groups that it is tightly controlled. But emails from LGC to the Home Office, seen by The Observer, suggest this is not the case.

Why children? What could the justification be for that. And then we come to the Coup de grâce:

One of LGC's directors is Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and it has several contracts with companies in the pharmaceutical, biotech and chemicals industry. Although there is no evidence that the firm has used the DNA records for other commercial purposes, opposition MPs are calling for the Home Office to launch an investigation.

Astonishingly, it's corruption right up at the very top. Again.

This is way too close to Brave New World for comfort.

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