The purpose of this paper is to discuss the UK National DNA Database (NDNAD) and some of the controversies surrounding it with reference to legal and ethical issues, focusing particularly on privacy and human rights. Governance of this database involves specific exemptions from the Data Protection Act (DPA), and this gives a rise to concerns regarding both the extent of surveillance on the UK population and the possibility for harm to all citizens. This is of wider importance since every current citizen, and everybody who visits the UK, could become a record in the DNA database. Principally, the paper seeks to explore whether these exemptions would also imply exemptions for software developers from codes of practice and ethics of their professional societies as relate to constructing or maintaining such data and the database.
The paper makes a comparison between the principles of the DPA, as would need to be followed by all other organizations handling personal data, professional responsibilities‐based codes of ethics of professional societies, and the current reality as reported in relation to the NDNAD and the exemptions offered through the DPA.
Primarily, if NDNAD was not exempted from certain provisions in the DPA, the potential for the kinds of data leakages and other mishandlings could largely be avoided without the need for further considerations over so‐called “data minimization”. It can be seen how the lack of afforded protection allows for a wide range of issues as relate at least to privacy.
The paper provides the first evaluation of the combination of law, codes of ethics, and activities in the real world as related to NDNAD, with concomitant considerations for privacy, liberty, and human rights. Originality is demonstrated through consideration of the implications of certain exemptions in the DPA in relation to crime and taxation and national security and in relating the expected protections for personal data to widely reported evidence that such protections may be variously lacking. In addition, the paper provides a broad overview of controversies over certain newer kinds of DNA analysis, and other relatively recent findings, that seem generally absent from the vast majority of debates over this kind of analysis.