Kuwaiti Government will DNA Test Everyone

There's a new law that will enforce DNA testing for everyone: citizens, expatriates, and visitors. They promise that the program "does not include genealogical implications or affects personal freedoms and privacy."

I assume that "visitors" includes tourists, so presumably the entry procedure at passport control will now include a cheek swab. And there is nothing preventing the Kuwaiti government from sharing that information with any other government.

Posted on April 18, 2016 at 12:46 PM • 32 Comments

Comments

EricApril 18, 2016 1:01 PM


How long would it take them to analyze a DNA sample and check it against the database? If it is more than a few minutes, they will have to analyze them after the person has left the airport.

DanielApril 18, 2016 1:11 PM

@Eric

What is a person going to do, change their DNA after entry? I'd image that it is difficult for anyone, and especially a visitors, to hide in a country that small. How well such checks scale to larger countries like Russia or the USA is a different question.

In my view the bigger threat over the long run will be hacking the databases. One cannot change one's DNA but what is recorded in a computer database can be changed so a check like this is only as good as the database is accurate and reliable. If history is any guide, database are usually not accurate or reliable.

EricApril 18, 2016 1:16 PM

It depends on what the purpose is. If they are trying to deny entry to known terrorists, then the DNA check at the airport isn't likely to be all that useful unless they can do it very quickly. The same holds true if they are trying to deny entry to people using false passports.

But if the intent is to be able to match names to DNA samples taken from crime scenes, then I suppose it could work.

LisaApril 18, 2016 1:19 PM

Hopefully the entire Kuwaiti royal family will publish their entire fully sequenced genome for all to see.

After all, as rulers of their kingdom, they can examine the dna from any individual, so why shouldn't any individual be able to see their's?

BTW, I am still waiting to see California's governer Brown's fingerprint, now that it is required for the DMV.

JimApril 18, 2016 1:34 PM

Kuwait is pretty fat on the totalitarian cycle. There is an excellent episode of "locked up abroad", detailing a young westerner who got hard prison time there for the nefarious sin of drinking.

Unfortunately, like many Muslim majority nations, no cure for it. These sorts of rules are demanded by the majority.

This rule, seems plainly to come from the, "we of the regime are concerned about terrorists". Because somehow tyrannies and dissidents tend to go hand in hand. And tyrannies are always fragile, insecure.

(Not to the hard "anyone who is not Hutu should be murdered" level of totalitarianism. Not to the hard "anyone who even wears eyeglasses and anything else showing they are intellectual are deadly foreign spies who must be killed" level.)

@Eric

Law enforcement is a joke there. This would be for terrorists, any sort of opponent to their regime.

So, for instance, with the "western teenager who drank alcohol"? He could be considered a threat to the regime, because he is denying the regime's authority by breaking the law.

Likely they are considering scenarios such as, "we probably have a lot of people whose identities are fake here", not trusting anyone's passport.

And far, far overstimating the number of those who might be interested in regime change.

(Spies, obviously, is also what they would consider in the "terrorist" label. Because they would see spies as possibly seeking to build up dissident groups or otherwise provide a little regime change action. In reality, the kingdom has no alternatives. So no one would bother.)

JimApril 18, 2016 1:36 PM

@Daniel

In my view the bigger threat over the long run will be hacking the databases. One cannot change one's DNA but what is recorded in a computer database can be changed so a check like this is only as good as the database is accurate and reliable. If history is any guide, database are usually not accurate or reliable.

If you want to have any kind of undercover program, you have to be able to do exactly that.


ScottApril 18, 2016 1:47 PM

I wonder how many false positives there will be, given that Kuwait has about 1M tourists per year. I suspect this will be great for the police's efficiency rating -- if there's a 1-in-a-million chance of a false positive, they can probably close all their open cases by getting DNA matches to tourists.

Murcan TouristrApril 18, 2016 6:06 PM

Yeah, another blast-furnace sandpile run by megarich "royalty". Lemme jot that down on my places-to-vacation list. I'll list it right under "places where they hang people's heads from overpasses".

tyrApril 18, 2016 7:14 PM


@M_Six

According to Barry O. "No one is above the Law".
Therefore the US troops are now going to be in
the database.

I'm not sure if he realized his own position in
reference to extrajudicial murder when he made
that pronouncement but it will be fun to see
how it works out.

BrianApril 18, 2016 8:10 PM

I am curious about the possibility and implications of other uses for these data. What can we figure out about biological vulnerabilities in large blocks of the world's population when processing a million visitors per year? Sounds like sci-fi, maybe.

PeanutsApril 18, 2016 8:58 PM

Seen enough diy bio hacking, bio hacking villages popping up everywhere in the news recently, that it's astonishing they haven't considered how quickly or effective knowing just exactly which gene sequence to target will matter to thir enemies

They could take a lesson from the Japanese on how failing to imagine a simple wave, mattered

PubliusApril 18, 2016 9:38 PM

Not long before those with superior athletic or cognitive abilities are involuntary participants in the creation of designer-children for the Sheiks and their friends / customers?

Clive RobinsonApril 19, 2016 2:25 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

I will be most happy to provide them with a stool sample

The real question is "How are you going to fling it across the border anonymously?"...

MartinApril 19, 2016 5:23 AM

Its been a while since I went to Kuwait but last time I was there the visa application included the place of residence while in-State. So anyone going through the airport could probably be found after the fact.

Increasingly on comment threads, a lot of uninformed gut reaction. @Jim - it's their country and they have a perfect right to decide that it is 'nefarious' - and where the reference to Hutu is relevant I really have no idea. @Others - Kuwait has made a pretty good stab at a democratic process and shouldn't be castigated for cultures in the same geographic region.

So, what we can say from the last decade or so (if not more) is it is difficult (if not impossible) to make databases secure from all threats. Does that mean we give up putting sensitive information into databases? That would be akin to changing behavior in the face of terrorism. So, no is the answer, but we constantly evolve our understanding of best practice to avoid abuse of that information.

I. ForgotApril 19, 2016 6:08 AM

What other purpose would there be to DNA tracking except those that have, "genealogical implications or affects personal freedoms and privacy"?

While hacking the database will be an issue, the elephant in the room will be who they will "share" their data with. I can imagine a list of governments that are drooling to have a taste, or more likely full feed.

I can easily see many governments, including the USA and GB, enacting a similar law in the name of SECURITY very soon.

It would seem SECURITY will be the death of western freedom and democracy.

But, I guess we will be so safe, safe, safe. Or, maybe not.

Ergo SumApril 19, 2016 7:11 AM

Quote from the referenced article:

"Q: What about eye prints or retinal scans?

Eye prints (retinal scans) are not currently adopted as criminal evidence in Kuwait due to the presence of more accurate technologies including fingerprinting and DNA. Eye prints are used in some countries but there is no international cooperation in this field due to lack of international databases of eye prints."

Isn't that an admission of international database for DNA and fingerprint? In which case...

Biometric authentication might be the last nail in the privacy's coffin. How long before LEOs get their paws on the authentication server database full of fingerprints? At your work, bank, etc...

ArnoldApril 19, 2016 8:18 PM

@ Ergo Sum, "Isn't that an admission of international database for DNA and fingerprint? In which case..."

It's primarily for flight safety reason, which is benevolent, but makes you wonder who are the contractors behind and maintain these technologies and data.

DroneApril 19, 2016 11:45 PM

@ Piper, "...mathematics of probability." Actually Probability Theory 'is' Mathematics.

SchneieronSecurityFanApril 20, 2016 2:10 AM

What about sanctions against companies that work toward fulfilling the Kuwaiti government's goal? Wasn't IBM in trouble c. 1990 concerning a national ID card in Thailand that it helped to provide?

qwertyuiopApril 20, 2016 10:18 AM

@Martin "...the visa application included the place of residence while in-State..."

You mean like the details I have to supply on ESTA when I go to the USA?

Marcos El MaloApril 20, 2016 1:50 PM

Slightly used membrane for sale. Still moist, but use-by date is fast approaching. Can be installed for an extra fee or DIY using easy to follow online videos.

StarbuckApril 21, 2016 4:32 AM

More interestingly, I'd be interested in knowing what company (aka: what country) will provide the DNA analysis equipment...

AdolfoApril 21, 2016 6:55 PM

So what? Who cares? Completely irrelevant. There are a lot of other beautiful countries to visit. Let the camel drivers do what they want to do.

@Jim: "Kuwait is pretty fat on the totalitarian cycle." Totally agree. Pity the U.S. stopped the Iraqis from invading that degraded country where you got hookers, booze, and fat 4X4s only.

No WayApril 21, 2016 8:04 PM

Scratch Kuwait from countries I'm willing to visit and spend in. Plenty of other places on the planet that don't make unnecessary demands from guests. Bye-bye Kuwait!

Jim MorgansonApril 22, 2016 12:50 PM

@Adolfo

@Jim: "Kuwait is pretty fat on the totalitarian cycle." Totally agree. Pity the U.S. stopped the Iraqis from invading that degraded country where you got hookers, booze, and fat 4X4s only.

Iraq was really about just setting up a base of operations in the heart of the Middle East.

Pre-Iraq, US troop placement was centered all around the world, and largely in areas focused on where Russia would have been the primary threat.

Merely setting up bases in Afghanistan was not good enough. They wanted to sandwich Iran tightly. And much of the threat is on that western side of Iran.

Saddam was certainly a tyrant, and there were many aspects of his nation which were totalitarian. But, yes, in comparison to Kuwait, it was a far more open society where you had kurds, shia, sunni, Christians all living together.

But it was all really just about military placement and real estate.

Iran did not fail to miss the message. And the Sunni and Shia groups to the West of Iran did not and do not fail to miss the message.


Mike BarnoApril 22, 2016 1:51 PM

@ Jim Morganson :

"Iran did not fail to miss the message."

When you attempt a triple negative in the English language, you are likely to convey the opposite of your intended meaning, as you did here.

AlexSApril 22, 2016 2:04 PM

@Dirk Praet • April 18, 2016 6:08 PM I will be most happy to provide them with a stool sample.

Actually...a stool sample may well be more accurate than DNA. Every single person does have a different gut bacteriological profile, and yes, you can identify someone by it... unless they go through a fecal transplant, but even ~3-6 months after the transplant, the person will develop a different bacterial ecosystem than their donor.

/Yes, I have had the...um...pleasure...of doing the testing as well as the transplant.

JimApril 22, 2016 2:19 PM

@Mike Barno

"Iran did not fail to miss the message."
When you attempt a triple negative in the English language, you are likely to convey the opposite of your intended meaning, as you did here.


Is that Bandler and Grinder hat tip stuff? They were cool in the seventies, but their linguistic breakdowns were all based on their work observing Milton Erickson.

Who is Milton Erickson.

So, a curious thing about Erickson is that in the first part of his career, his papers were very much like one would expect from any researcher in cutting edge technology. Very full of direct statements and observations well written, providing supporting evidence.

He did that work for decades. Long career. He did a lot of critical experimentation.

But, the last few decades of his career, you would hardly ever be able to get a straight word out of the guy. And those he trained, same thing. You can find some of his training online.

He would treat the hard cases no one else could get through.

And he was always indirect. On many levels.

Someone once asked him, why is always that way. And he pointed out "the patient is indirect, so you have to be indirect".


Same thing with general human to human communications, where you are focused on getting results.

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