DNA database least of our concerns

By Ian Williams | Privacy concerns over the details of innocents being held in the UK’s National DNA Database are not nearly as worrying as other planned government files.

This is the revelation from Mike Barwise, a security expert from Infosecurity Adviser, the online forum run by the Infosecurity Europe team.

“The media seems preoccupied at the moment about people’s DNA being stored centrally, but the reality is that the database is really a one-dimensional invasion of citizens’ privacy,” said Barwise.

“Two-dimensional databases, such as the planned telecommunications database of the numbers people call from their landlines and mobile phones, are much more worrying.”

According to Barwise, when you factor in the time element to the planned government telecommunications database and add in location-based data from the cellular carriers, you create a three-dimensional view of the person concerned.

“Not only do you have the numbers called and the locations called from, but you have a time-based diary from which you can extrapolate their movements,” he explained.

Because we do increasingly more on our mobiles, Irwin highlights that the proposed telecommunications database would reveal a vast amount about a person’s circle of business and social contacts, as well as web browsing habits and other very personal information.

“This has been a highly charged subject for years, not least due to the progressive extension of the scope of the database, culminating in recent proposals to include young children who might offend in the future — or indeed everyone in the country,” he said, adding that the issue arouses strong emotions.

Fortunately for those equally concerned by the proposal, the creation of the database has been called into question by Information Commissioner Richard Thomas who described it as “a step too far for the British way of life”.