January 2, 2006  ·  Lessig

So I was on the “Docklands Light Railway” in London, reading the ads above the passengers’ heads. Here, by far, is my favorite:

Abuse, Assault, Arrest:
Our staff are here to help you. Spitting on DLR staff is classified as an assault and is a criminal offence. Saliva Recovery Kits are now held on every train and will be used to identifty offenders against the national DNA database.

  • http://dooooooom.blogspot.com/ Ian Brown

    Since yesterday, your DNA can be sampled and permanently recorded in the UK for arrest (not charge or conviction) for the most trivial of offences, including littering and not wearing a seat belt:

  • http://www.xanga.com tim fong

    Next up, using the saliva kits to catch gum litterers. To be followed by caning.

  • http://blogs.opml.org/tommorris Tom Morris

    Wow. Just wow.

    Ps. Are you doing anything public (lectures, discussions, media) while you’re in London? I really enjoyed the talk you gave at UCL about CC back in ’04.

  • Patrick R. Sweeney

    More than a little absurd, but considering California v. Greenwood, isn’t this the the law, with respect to litter, in the U.S. as well?

  • ACS

    Is there anything seriously wrong with this. It is not as though our DNA is private, or is it? Does biological information fall within a different category than all other information that comes into the public domain?

    It is quite clear that DNA is like all information made available in a public space – after all – “there is no property in a spectacle” – and for that matter in biological material.

    My arguments would of course be different if there was some form of statutory provision making DNA private property or protected in some way.

    Still the issue raised by our venerable hosts article is whether there is anything wrong with DNA testing – it looks like the big L is commenting on the advance of technology rather than the civil liberties that may be set aside.

  • dennis

    Quite amazing that every time a new technology removes privacy, someone comes along and says that because of that technology, you have no expectation of privacy in that realm anyway.

    When terahertz-wave viewers are available at radio shack, the same people will say you should expect to be seen naked in public.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Dennis, I really don’t think that a person who spits on someone can claim they have an expectation of privacy in the spit.

    The example is pretty funny because we think of “DNA evidence” as somehow being very remote. But it’s not – many bodily products will work fine for forensic purposes. The obvious example is rape cases!

  • http://www.rainpattern.com Thien

    DNA in forensics to match a victim or suspect is different from a DNA database. With a national database anyone can be looked up for any reason. Although we have no qualms with fingerprint databases which are currently used.

  • Ed

    Fingerprint databases can only be used to idendity if a suspect is the offender, however a DNA database can tell you much more about a person including their relatedness to other people on the database, blood-type, if they are going to develop Parkinson’s diease or already have other genetic diseases, among many other things. This information is avaliable to the government and NHS in later years if/when data protection laws are changed *for the good of the country* and will potentially cause discrimination in a system of ever increasing pressure. This leads to the insurance company debate and if they can have your genetic information to raise premiums of those that are predisposed to certain ailments.
    If some kid is going to cause trouble and spit on someone, then DNA identification could be necessary for court prosecution puposes, but holding that information, and particularly obtaining genetic information for an offence that clearly has no relatedness to genes such as not wearing a seatbelt is absurd.

  • Jardinero1

    I think it would be useful to know how this database is acquired. It’s one matter to collect at booking, photos, fingerprints, and DNA of the accused and place it into a criminal database. It’s a different matter to collect the public’s DNA, for no particular reason, (say when renew their driver’s license or ID Card) and place that into a database.

  • Jardinero1

    I wonder how bad must the service be or how savage the riders if there is enough spitting to warrant a sign. I have witnessed a fair amount of mistreatment of service workers in my time but I have never seen anyone spat upon.