Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Photographs might be a crime

I've just had a bit of surprise. I read an article about photographing the police becoming a criminal offence under certain circumstances. Read it here.

So, if I wander around a town or village making a map for OSM and I photograph a police officer, quite possibly by mistake, he or she could then start asking questions about what is going on. If I don't satisfy the officer I could then be arrested and my equipment confiscated. Simply by being arrested a sample of my DNA would then be stored on the police DNA database. I would not have to be found guilty or even charged to have my DNA taken, I just have to be arrested.

Now, I don't have anything to hide, I have a clear conscience, but I also know something about IT. I know that the database and the infrastructure around it is the weak link in this process. If my personal details and my DNA data get mixed up in the inner workings of some software upgrade, I could then get a knock on my door in the middle of the night- now imagine sorting that out and proving that the DNA database is wrong.

Now I know people will say there's a lot of 'ifs' here, and there are, but the fact that there are any 'ifs' at all is what is wrong. We need government security databases like we need more holes in our heads. We do need to remove erosion of our liberty because some paranoid control-freak in government thinks it might help with their re-election to the gravy-train by spinning some tale about protecting people from terrorism.

I'll get back to some mapping later this week, maybe we'll leave the eastern part of our county for a while and head west to Howden, I'll just keep the cops out of my viewfinder.


gravitystorm said...

The thing that annoys me is that they store your DNA / fingerprints / everything else actually on disk. If they took hashes (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptographic_hash_function ) they would be able to identify that your DNA matched, but without being able to trawl the database for people with the same patterns. And if there was a leak

But the general intelligence of anyone building government systems is pretty low, and any advice they get from the outside is always "technical mumbo-jumbo". Humph.

Gregory Marler said...

The spoof/doctored terrorism poster comes to mind. A picture of Tomlinson being beaten by police officers and text along the lines of "Thanks to a by stander filming this... ...if you suspect it, post it to the internets".

So if police cover up their numbers, how can we clearly identify them?