Despite public concerns over privacy, the Department of Defence has plans to construct a DNA database for Australia service men and women. Presently, any DNA sample submissions are voluntary due to legislation prohibiting the mandatory DNA sampling of defence personnel.
However, according to Roger Clarke, chairman of the Australia Privacy Foundation (APF), “In one breath, the provision is said to be voluntary, and in the next breath the statement is made that it is expected that there will be a very high rate of take-up.” He goes on to explain, “In other words, if people withhold consent they’ll be ordered to submit. This is intended to be ‘voluntary’ only in the cynical, military use of the word.”
Clarke goes on to say that “there are significant problems of leakage from government databases.” Due to the sensitive and confidential matter of DNA samples in regards to health matters, he suggests “there is enormous scope for function to creep in such areas as unfair discrimination in employment, driver licensing, and health insurance. “The chances of there being proper and workable protections for individuals in this are really quite low,” he said.
In a recent statement the APF made the claim that these current measures may just be a way to test the waters of DNA collection on a national scale, stating that these new measures were simply a way of “softening up the Australia public for the imposition of DNA collection on everyone.” The debate continues.
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