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8 Race & Class 51(3)
DNA taken from anyone arrested but not charged or convicted can be held in perpetuity.19 Under the implementation of the ‘Prum Treaty’, originally an initiative of seven member states to cooperate on information-sharing, to be rolled out across the EU, the exchange of fingerprints and DNA will be allowed throughout the EU. At present the UK, because of the sweeping nature of its laws, has the largest DNA database in the EU and the world. But the Prum implementation is leading to demands on other EU states to lower their currently quite strict standards for the taking and keeping of DNA. And measures ranging from the draconian to the frankly bizarre have been targeted specifically on Muslim communities across Europe.20 Much energy too has gone into compiling ‘terrorist’ lists and targeting ‘suspects’ on a mass scale, based apparently for the most part on their religious orientation or migrant status.21 And all this involves the gathering and exchanging of information and intelligence in EU-wide databases and increasing operational cooperation between law enforcement and security agencies.
Examples of where the ‘surveillance society’ complements and feeds into the ‘policing state’ include videos recorded by commercial CCTV that are passed to the police to investigate a crime. Or records of online flight reservations are collected and passed to law enforcement and security agencies to check against their ‘watch’ and ‘flagging’ lists. ‘Watchlists’ cover those to be denied the right to board a plane or to be detained for questioning/arrest prior to departure; flagging means that any recorded activity by them is passed to one or more agencies (people of ‘interest’). Moreover, the mushrooming private security industry is largely peopled by ex-police and military personnel who not only bring their experience but their contacts too.
There is also an overlap in the technology used. Multinationals, law enforcement and security agencies and government officials from the EU and the US attend scores of working parties, seminars, conferences and briefings to develop new methods to meet new demands by the ‘policing state’. For the corporations, government/state contracts are like gold-dust, partly because of the size of such contracts and partly the certainty of an ever-expanding market. The EU Visa Information System (VIS), for example, requires the fingerprinting of visa applicants at embassies around the world, adding personal data, securing, storing and transferring the data as well as systems for checking watchlists and criminal records. At the point of entry to the EU, it requires ‘readers’ at every exit and entry point for ‘one-to-one’ checks and ‘one-to-many’ against VIS and national databases. What starts as an EU (or US or EU-US) system is highly likely to determine global standards to be imposed everywhere.
The prognosis In effect, what these accelerating developments point to is the transition to a new era that can best be characterised as one of democratic authoritarianism, where the rewriting of the rule of law, and the erosion of meaningful accountability