Privacy fears over DNA bank

Greece’s privacy watchdog yesterday expressed concerns about draft legislation foreseeing the creation of a DNA bank containing genetic information about all suspects arrested by the Greek police, which the force hopes would boost its crackdown on domestic terrorism. Just a few days after slamming an amendment paving the way for authorities to use surveillance cameras without restrictions, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD) said it feared that the DNA bank bill, in its current form, could constitute a violation of privacy laws and of an individual’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. According to sources, the APPD has prepared a lengthy written assessment of the proposed reform to ensure that citizens convicted of minor offenses, such as traffic violations, are not treated in the same way as terrorism suspects. Specifically, the watchdog has proposed that genetic material be taken only from suspects or those convicted of serious crimes. It also recommends that the DNA of defendants who win irreversible acquittals should be wiped from the bank, while the genetic material of convicts with unappealable sentences should be kept in storage for a certain period of time after the completion of the prison term. The APPD also insists that DNA samples not be taken from minors under 13. It also calls for provisions to be added to the bill restricting the amount of time that DNA samples can be kept. There was no public response from the government yesterday to the watchdog’s proposals but earlier this week Justice Minister Nikos Dendias reacted to the APPD’s criticism of the surveillance camera bill by noting that the government does not need the body’s approval to proceed with the reform. The APPD has been locked in a dispute with the government and the police since the 2004 Olympic Games over the appropriate use of CCTV cameras.

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