Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Aaro blah blah databases

Totally out of his depth here. The UK's National DNA Database has been ruled to be illegal by the European Court. The NO2ID/Liberty report says it "has to be redesigned or scrapped". Because it does. Aaro thinks there's something fishy about this ...

Aaro's point is asinine. We know that there's an imposition on the liberty of people who are convicted of crimes, but if you can't handle that, you have the option of avoiding it by the simple expedient of not doing any crimes. Not doing crimes also has the advantage of keeping your fingerprints out of the police files, not giving you a criminal record, and indeed keeping you out of jail. It's a simple and easy method of maintaining your privacy.

If you do decide to do crimes, though, then there are consequences for this. Society has decided that one of the tradeoffs between security and liberty that it's prepared to make involves keeping records of the DNA of guilty, but not innocent people, and there really doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for revisiting this compromise. Because although a national DNA database would indeed make the police's job easier, it would also be entirely open to abuse, as the European Court noted in its ruling saying the damn thing was illegal. Which is why nobody wants one.

Aaro's argument appears to be that those cccccrazeee civil liberties fundamentalists are guilty of "discrimination", but the discrimination in this case is against people who have been convicted of a crime

"Some of our judges have long believed that treating the convicted as though they were automatically more guilty of a future offence than the unconvicted, was unsustainable."

Name me one, Aaro. Name me one. (I am sure he can do - judges often believe the most unbelievably fucking stupid things. But to assert that there is something obviously dodgy with believing that those convicted in the past are more likely to be guilty of a future offence - which is both unbelievably obviously empirically true, and the basis for the entire current system of criminal record keeping - is very obviously a freaky minority belief, and thus it's not surprising that sensible mainstream organisations like Liberty and No2ID don't hold it).

15 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Is tere a reason why he's written the last 2 columns on the same thing, in a typically unconvincing manner? Why is he sticking so doggedly to this?

3/24/2009 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

It's the core of his ideology (Birtism). The prevalence of databases isn't just some random piece of contrarianism with Aaro - it's absolutely fundamental to his politics. It's the greatest intellectual struggle of our time for him.

3/24/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Funny how these 'great intellectual struggles' seem to inevitably get presented by their most vociferous supporters in an un-intellectual way isn't it?

3/24/2009 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Is it just me, or is Aaro engaged in some kind of tacit assault on the word "innocent"? He had a right go at it when he was talking about how all those naive liberals don't like torture, too.

(Imminent coin-in-change-jar alert) This kind of thing seems to be gaining some currency in Decent circles. Add this to that piece on HP (Ker-ching!) the other week that argued that the word "understand" has entirely different meanings depending on whether you're a Goodie or a Baddie, roughly...

The Decents comprehend acts of violence, whereas the evil Leftisses Cheer on such deeds, often while masturbating.

BTW, no piece on that Aaro interview with Clive Stafford-Smith? It was either the worst, most devastating credibility meltdown I've seen from an interviewee, or it was the most cynical hatchet job I've seen in a long time, one or the other.

3/24/2009 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger John B said...

What, this one? CSS comes across well in that I reckon, for all Aaro's 'decency'...

3/24/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

those convicted in the past are more likely to be guilty of a future offence

More to the point, more likely to have been guilty of an undetected offence.

Actually, the idea of being able to hang on to convicts' DNA (or dabs) indefinitely, for speculative future checking against crimes that hadn't even been committed when they were convicted, does strike me as a bit dodgy; I'm glad Aaro brought this to our attention. But if you're going to draw the line anywhere (blah blah tradeoffs blah blah art of the possible blah), then in between "convicted" and "innocent in law" seems like a pretty obvious place to draw it.

3/24/2009 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

CSS comes across well in that I reckon...

Agree, if you're a sane human being who understands that giving the most obviously guilty man the right to a fair trial, a defence lawyer etc. is an essential part of functioning democracy.

I thought it looked like one long series of selective quotes specifically designed to appeal to the one-quote-you're-out crowd -

Oooer, look, he seems a bit fond of terrorists and paedos, doesn't he? Typical of the liberal left with its sympathy for those who would murder us all in our beds, and its detachment from the real concerns of the white working class etc. etc. arse arse arse.

That sort of thing - a goldmine, if you're a fan of out of context quotes to justify ignoring pertinent points made by CSS and others like him.

Anyway, ignore me, I'm hauling this off the topic of Aaro's latest gambit for slapping down those awful liberals.

3/24/2009 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Can you name anyone less qualified to offer advice about databases than David Aaronovitch? Either of my grandmothers would be better and they're both DEAD.

3/24/2009 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

To be fair, is Aaro's point very different from the principle which used to apply that a defendant's previous convictions were not allowed to be used against him in court?

3/24/2009 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Just to restate, HP fines are not imposed for mentioning the place as such, merely for "have you seen what HP are saying?" comments, given that the fact that malign and stupid people say malign and stupid things does not in itself merit repeated confirmation.

Whether Mr Rodent's observations above transgress these guidelines, I shall leave to his conscience to decide.

(Verification "quell", appropriately enough)

3/24/2009 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

is Aaro's point very different from the principle which used to apply that a defendant's previous convictions were not allowed to be used against him in court?

yes I think it is - it seems to me to be both entirely defensible and probably sensible to say that the cops are allowed to use whatever heuristics they can within the bounds of the law in deciding how they're going to investigate a crime, but that in court, they have to prove it on the basis of stricter rules of evidence. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a fundamental principle of justice, but obviously a bad rule for carrying out investigations.

3/24/2009 07:30:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Yes, fair point

3/24/2009 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

In that vein, I don't know how it works down south but...

Prosecutors in Scotland always pursue cases against people with lots of previous convictions much harder than they do your random member of the public who snaps or strays.

The Procurator Fiscal (CPS) keeps a record of particularly nasty sexual offences (the Moorov book) and usually choose to prosecute people who have been repeatedly accused of such offences more aggressively.

99 times out of 100, this doesn't come out at trial - the only time it does is in trials about sex crimes where the defence attacks the character of the victim - usually her appearance or sexual history. Scots law cries bullshit at that point and the accused's previous behaviour is fair game.

That's about right, if you ask me. I'm a bit of an evangelist for human rights - as opposed to natural rights, which you'll struggle to enforce in court - and the balance makes sense to me.

I don't think Aaro's thought this through, in short. Even the wettest, most tree-hugging liberal in the country surely agrees that law-abiding citizens and criminals should get different treatment.

Whether Mr Rodent's observations above transgress these guidelines, I shall leave to his conscience to decide.

To his what, now?

3/24/2009 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Er, I meant "What BB said", including the use of the word "Heuristics".

Word verification - "Gerastwat".

No, not really, I'm just fucking with you.

3/24/2009 09:54:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I think Norm Geras has already won the 2009 prize for 'most unintentionally hilarious piece of writing':

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2009/03/seven-themes-for-caryl-churchill.html

3/25/2009 03:14:00 PM  

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