Andhra Pradesh working on system to DNA-tag convicts

  1. News: The Andhra Pradesh government plans to bring in legislation that will allow the State police and investigating agencies to collect and store DNA samples in a centralised database
  2. Under scanner: The move has come in for close scrutiny, as the Centre first prepared a draft bill on the issue in 2012
  3. But the legislation ran into severe opposition from activists on the ground that it violated privacy. It has since been on hold
  4. Background: In August last year, the AP government launched a DNA collection-kit developed by IntegenX, Inc, a US company
  5. It enables DNA to be extracted from saliva and blood samples within a matter of two hours
  6. Focus on sex crimes: The reasoning is that a centralised DNA database on convicts would help track repeat offenders in sexual assault and rape
  7. Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015: By the center; was prepared by the Department of Biotechnology and the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA-Fingerprinting and Diagnostics
  8. But the bill is yet to be cleared by the Union Cabinet
  9. Concern: Several organisations and individuals have raised concerns that the bill gave sweeping powers to government to mine the database and use it for purposes beyond just solving crime
  10. Global experience: So far, about 70 million samples have been collected in 54 countries over 20 years, and there have been no instances of databases being compromised, according to IntegenX company

Note4students:

Note the key terms for prelims like DNA profiling etc. The privacy issue involved and the safeguards needed is the issue for mains here.

Back2basics:

DNA profiling:

  1. Also known as: DNA fingerprinting, DNA testing, or DNA typing
  2. Genesis: The modern process of DNA profiling was developed in 1984 by Sir Alec Jeffreys while working in the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester
  3. What? It is a forensic technique used to identify individuals by characteristics of their DNA
  4. DNA profile: It is a small set of DNA variations that is very likely to be different in all unrelated individuals, thereby being as unique to individuals as are fingerprints (hence the alternate name for the technique)
  5. Uses: Parentage testing and criminal investigation, to identify a person or to place a person at a crime scene, techniques which are now employed globally in forensic science to facilitate police detective work and help clarify paternity and immigration disputes
  6. Also widely used in the study of animal and floral populations and has revolutionized the fields of zoology, botany, and agriculture
  7. Principle: Although 99.9% of human DNA sequences are the same in every person, enough of the DNA is different that it is possible to distinguish one individual from another, unless they are monozygotic (identical) twins
  8. DNA profiling uses repetitive sequences that are highly variable, called variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs), in particular short tandem repeats (STRs), also known as microsatellites, and minisatellites
  9. VNTR loci are very similar between closely related individuals, but are so variable that unrelated individuals are extremely unlikely to have the same VNTRs

Whatsapp told by HC to delete from its servers info of users who opt out

  1. The Delhi High Court directed instant messaging service Whatsapp to delete from its server all information of users who chose to opt out of its services after September 25
  2. September 25 is the deadline after which Whatsapp said it would be sharing information of users with social media giant Facebook
  3. Background: A petition was filed in the HC saying that Whatsapp’s new policy was an infringement of users’ privacy
  4. Whatsapp was not giving any option to its users but to share the information with Facebook
  5. The bench had expressed concern over what happens to information of users who opt out of Whatsapp services
  6. Regulation? The court has also directed the Union and TRAI to see if they can bring Internet based messaging services like Whatsapp under a regulatory framework

Putin signs controversial Big Brother law

  1. News: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a package of controversial anti-terror amendments dubbed ‘Big Brother’ measures by critics
  2. Aim: The law boosts the government’s surveillance powers for the security services, by requiring the telecom operators to store key data and to provide it to security forces
  3. Requires telecom operators to store users’ calls, messages, photographs and videos for 6 months, as well as metadata for up to 3 years
  4. Impact: May cost internet companies billions
  5. Response: Snowden called the decision a ‘dark day for Russia’

Right to privacy concerns: Aadhaar holder can block his biometric info

First time, UIDAI has disclosed that a mechanism exists under which a card holder can choose to block the biometric information linked to his Aadhaar card.

  1. An Aadhaar card holder can block his card along with his demographic and biometric information if he wants to opt out of the UID system.
  2. Government tried to convince the Supreme Court that Aadhaar is “purely voluntary”.
  3. If a person wants to block the information about him contained in the biometric database, he can do it voluntarily and nobody will be able to unblock it, till he wants.

Absolute privacy is a futile notion, says A-G

The A-G argued that right to privacy of an Indian citizen has become a futile notion in an era when Facebook can track every detail, thought and movement through its WhatsApp software application.

  1. The govt. is going at great lengths to convince that Aadhaar is a voluntary authentication device.
  2. It is not a snooping device or meant to be an instrument of control of the likes used by authoritarian States to keep tabs on citizens.
  3. He said the Aadhaar was the most widely held identity card in the country at 92 crore compared to 7 crore PAN card, 5 crore having passports and 12-15 crore people with ration cards.

SC to re-look right to privacy, courtesy Aadhaar

New bench will hear the fundamental issue whether the state is in the right by creating a situation by which a citizen is enticed to voluntarily part with his privacy rights, for social benefit schemes

  1. The new Constitution Bench will sit for the first time on October 14.
  2. Over 60 years after an eight-judge Bench declared that Right to Privacy is not a fundamental right.
  3. Previous order by the Supreme Court on August 11, restricting the use of Aadhaar to PDS and LPG schemes.
  4. The Supreme Court decided to set up another Constitution Bench to re-look the question in that, Aadhaar card scheme is an invasion into citizen’s privacy.
  5. In 1954, the SC Bench by Chief Justice M.C. Mahajan held that Right to Privacy is not recognised by the Constitution makers as a fundamental right, and so no need to strain to make it one.

A basic right is in danger

  1. The Attorney General’s argument questioning right to privacy is against the interests of the people, and also seems to be politically motivated.
  2. India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which unequivocally supports the existence of the right to privacy.
  3. It is inconsistent for the govt. to argue that US has violated Indian citizen’s right to privacy and denying the same right domestically.

India’s DNA profiling bill may become one of the world’s most intrusive laws

Among all the forensic tools available to criminal investigators, DNA analysis is the only one that has consistently produced reliable results.


 

  1. Now Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, wants to ensure that the technique be used more widely to convict criminals in the country.
  2. Is it going to be one of the most intrusive bills to be put in motion?

 

The bill proposes creation of a national DNA data bank, without requisite safeguards for privacy, and opens the information to everything from civic disputes to compilation of statistics.


 

Some pertinent questions – 

  1. Is DNA evidence infallible?
  2. Can the DNA profiling board protect our genetic information? do we have adequate safeguards against cyber attacks?

DNA profiling Bill triggers debate

DNA Bill could result in large scale violation of human rights.


 

  1. DNA profiling is a forensic technique used to identify individuals by characteristics of their DNA.
  2. One sample of a person’s DNA is maintained by forensic authorities.
  3. That sample can be matched to DNA obtained from a crime scene to establish whether that person was present or not.
  4. “Does the Bill mean to say that once a criminal always a criminal?” asked Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, an advocate and human rights activist from Trivandrum, Kerala.

Where’s right to privacy? You decide, Govt tells SC

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi asked the court to constitute a nine-judge bench to decide what he said is a disputed question of law and constitutional provisions.


 

 

 

  1. Is right to privacy a fundamental right? The NDA government raised this question in the Supreme Court Wednesday, and went on to state that the Constitution does not assign right to privacy that status.
  2. What’s going on here?
  3. NDA is defending the validity of the Aadhaar card since a batch of petitions have contended that collection and sharing of biometric information was a breach of their “fundamental” right to privacy.
  4. It must first be settled authoritatively whether privacy is a fundamental right.

Privacy not a right, Aadhaar legit: Centre

Quoting a SC judgement of 1962 in Kharak Singh case, Centre replied that the right to privacy was a ‘vague concept’ and not a ‘guaranteed right’ under the Constitution.


 

However, the petitioner pointed to several decisions of the SC subsequent to the Kharak Singh case, including the Maneka Gandhi case, in which the court gave a very wide ambit to the right of personal liberty.

Privacy is at the core of our vital needs. Privacy leads to fulfilment of our goals, enrichment of ourselves and our growth. The need for privacy distinguishes humans from other animals. It is a fundamental right,” Mr. Divan said even as Justice Chelameswar suggested that since there was a “divergence of opinion” the matter may be referred to a larger bench.



:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







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