Image via WikipediaI have to confess, when I first saw the news that a group of police and forensics experts will meet today in Sharjah to discuss setting up a UAE national DNA database, my first reaction was of irritation. We've just been through the laborious process of having our finger, thumb and palm prints, our photographs and our other identity details taken, so if you wanted my DNA you could have had it then.
If you consider the disastrous roll-out of the national ID card system, one can only shudder at the potential in this new move. Commented on at length by many a blogger and even held out to dry by the dailies eventually, the conflicting announcements, lack of preparedness and ill-assembled systems deployed to manage the ID card process resulted in protracted, and comic, confusion on a huge scale. Imagine a repeat performance only accompanied by men in lab coats swabbing our cheeks and pecking little hunks of us off to be labelled and then mixed up.
But my irration passed as I read the story (once again, it was The National wot had the skinny) and saw what I can only describe as eminently sensible comments from the Chairman of the Emirates DNA Working Group, Dr. Ahmed Marzooki. He talked to The National about a possible 10-year programme, with initiatives to set up a legal framework to deal with issues of individual privacy and also to look at facilities, procedures, staffing and the like.
Marzooki also pointed out that the imperative to collect the data wasn't just criminal investigation (although that surely must be the most important driver) but also to be able to identify people in cases such as natural disaster and other tragedies - in fact, just back in August, a process was started by Dubai police to try and identify the relatives of eleven men who were killed in a fire villa in Dubai's Naif area. Storing the remains, contacting relatives, taking samples and shipping them must be a laborious and immensely expensive process - the database would mean an end to that type of investigation and speed positive identification for families and friends.
So I came away impressed with this clear evidence of quality of thought and with the feeling that if Marzooki, the man who is Interpol's only Middle Eastern representative, is at the front of this one, we may just see the lessons of the ID card roll-out learned.
We may even see the data integrated with the ID card biometric data, albeit with access controls in place. We may...