Certain Dutch hospitals maintain a DNA database for the purpose of scientific research. This enables many medical breakthroughs. However, on 19 October 2012, a plan of the Dutch government to start using these databases for judicial goals was leaked. Such a function creep is not only harmful to the free identity of our citizens, but also seriously throttles medical research.

The use of DNA in scientific research enables the medical sciences to uncover a lot of knowledge, such as properties of genetic disorders. For this reason, the scientific databases are a very important resource for the academic hospitals. We can probably all agree on the fact that this is a good thing and should persist. However, when the government wants to use this database for policing, things become rather scary.

DNA: Part of Your Most Private Details
Given the uniqueness of DNA in general, it is obvious that it is private information. Theoretically, identification using DNA samples makes it possible to track a person in its every move, although it is rather expensive. Due to the sensitivity of information related to the DNA of persons, the databases are strictly guarded and maintained with privacy concerns in mind.

It is not hard to imagine that setting up a national DNA database would make every citizens a suspect by default. Additionally, this creates a plethora of ways in which the data could be abused by both the government itself and other persons who gain access. Especially the risk of hacking increases when such a database is centralised.

Throttling Scientific Research
Leaving the apparent privacy issues aside, the pressing question to be asked is: would you still contribute to this database when the police gains access? Chances are high that research with the potential to save lives gets throttled in the name of “safety”. In other words, not only privacy gets stabbed, lives may be unnecessarily endangered by this measure.

At this point, most citizens that cooperate with medical research do so with the conscious goal of increasing the overall quality of life. Even though certain information is always kept for research when a patient does not object, most people are happy to contribute. Nevertheless, the prospect of a national DNA database turns this happiness into a fear that keeps them from cooperation.

Function Creep: Once Again
The European legislation on data protection requires that every data is collected with a certain goal in mind. Additionally, it is not allowed to extend this goal without gaining new consent of the persons whose privacy is affected. When this does happen, it is called function creep.

Nevertheless, legally the function creep of the scientific DNA databases does not constitute a problem. As the government is in the position to propose laws, they can easily create a legal requirement to collect DNA for their investigative powers. Whether it remains a privacy violation is a question for the European Court on Human Rights.

For Privacy and For Science: Protect Medical DNA Collection
The usage of DNA for medical purposes is very helpful. However, it can only prosper when security and privacy are guaranteed. When a function creep occurs, such as the leaked legislation of the government, scientific research gets harmed in favour of a false sense of safety. Specifically, a sense of safety that makes our country once again a bit more of a police state. So, dear politicians, let’s protect the medical science!

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