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British Litterbugs Fork Over DNA

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April 21, 2008

This morning, NPR covered the U.K.'s use of anti-terrorism surveillance tools to nab the perpetrators of petty crimes, like litterbugs and people who don't curb their dogs. In their profile, they described the case of two parents who were surveilled by the local town council to see if they were cheating on the residency requirements needed to gain admission to a local public school for their three-year-old.

NPR's Vicki Barker expanded on the subject of privacy rights by interviewing Simon Davies, head of ACLU partner Privacy International (PI), for the story. Simon describes a law passed three years ago that eliminated distinctions between all criminal offenses, so, in effect, litterbugs and other petty criminal offenders are now could be subject to mandatory DNA testing.

The article also points out that the U.K. has 4.2 million surveillance cameras installed throughout the country, or one for every 14 citizens. It also has the world's largest DNA database, which explains why the U.K. is listed as an "endemic surveillance society" by PI's International Privacy Ranking.

"This is the most monitored democracy on the planet," Barker says. Unfortunately, the U.S. isn't that far behind.

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