Jamie Grace wrote this article.
It be should acknowledged that the concept of property, and the related concept of ownership, is central to Western society. Property is always a common denominator of value – and as such our legal system is devoted to protecting property ownership – both of objects and of land. Land then, is to be fought over – even in the courts. The aim of this article is to refute the notion that a DNA- or biometric-driven land registry system is desirable for reasons of not practicality but of justice, and the avoidance of harm.
One writer, Toby Stevens, has put forward the original hypothesis,
‘that the provision of population-scale identity management systems has
the potential to underpin an economic revolution that will put an end
to many of society’s ills. Stevens has the notion that a biometric
system of land registration and proof-of-ownership would represent an
unassailable method of ‘asserting uniqueness of the individual, and
entitlement to ownership.’
An article by CNN journalist Cherise Fong highlights how secure biometrics can make property ownership – not just commercial transactions:
‘Besides fingerprints, other physiological biometrics include face
recognition, iris scan, retina scan, hand geometry, facial thermogram,
body odor, hand or finger veins, footprints and palm prints.’
This notion that a secure, national or global land registry could be
protected by biometrics or DNA technology – if it took hold – would
Stevens uses the example of the ‘land grab’ of Zimbabwe’s recent
past under Mugabe as being something that could be prevented by a
biometric-driven land registry system – without grasping that the
preponderance of evidence is that such a system, if powered by genetic
information, would be utilised to make sectarian and racially-divisive
political aims more achievable with respect to land redistribution
(either peacefully or through bloodshed).
We’re talking here about a concerted pogrom-style level of turmoil – not just an increased risk of vigilantism.
Most people will be aware of the prolonged, sectarian massacre that was
the Rwandan genocide of 1994 – when approximately eight hundred
thousand to one million ‘Tutsi’ Rwandans were murdered in orchestrated
outbursts of terrible violence by their ‘Hutu’ neighbours.
The writer Paul Magnarella highlights, in an excellent literature review, the colonial complicity involved
in creating scientifically unsound ‘ethnicities’ amongst the Rwandan
population – part of ‘divide and rule’ strategy by colonialists in
“During 1933-34, the Belgians conducted a census and
introduced an identity card system that indicated the Tutsi, Hutu, or
Twa “ethnicity” of each person. The identity card “ethnicity” of future
generations was determined patrilineally; all persons were designated
as having the “ethnicity” of their fathers, regardless of the
“ethnicity” of their mothers.
This practice, which was carried on until
its abolition by the 1994 post-genocide government, had the unfortunate
consequence of firmly attaching a sub-national identity to all Rwandans
and thereby rigidly dividing them into categories, which, for many
people, carried a negative history of dominance-subordination,
superiority, inferiority, and exploitation-suffering. In their “Hutu
Manifesto” of 1957, Hutu leaders referred to the identity card
categories as “races,” thereby evincing how inflexible these labels had
become in their minds.”
A biometrics land registry could be utilised by an unscrupulous
dictator or a zealous, hate-filed society to repeat this process on a
truly industrialised, Information Age-scale.
A system that used DNA-recognition to track and verify land
ownership (with the connection genomic DNA data necessarily has to
race, heritage, and therefore, culture and politics) would be a 21st