Just over a year ago, Dialogue App was used by the UK government’s crowdsourcing project Your Freedom. The aim was to stimulate discussion and debate on what ‘unnecessary’ laws should be repealed and was endorsed by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

Now that the Protection of Freedoms Bill 2011 has been drafted, I thought it would be nice revisit some of the online discussions which have influenced the legislation.

1. Schools must get permission from the parents of under 18’s to take their fingerprints

From the suggestion: Stop fingerprinting children in schools.

Interestingly, the original suggestion wanted to ban the practice outright. Yet this shows the benefits of Dialogue App being able to facilitate discussion. The comments include an opposing view from a librarian, arguing that using fingerprints can be useful and do not store the whole fingerprint, as well as others more concerned about the lack of guidelines/laws on the issue. Overall, the legislation manages to strike balance between the two sides, forming a workable compromise.

2. Allow marriages and civil partnerships to take place 24 hours a day

From the suggestion: Allow couples to get married wherever and whenever they like.

This repeals the Marriage Act 1836, which dictates couples can only wed between 0800 and 1800 and therefore give couples the right to marry in the evening (and theoretically, in the middle of the night). It was quite a silly a restriction in my opinion, but it’s these small yet sensible ideas which come up in debates like this which bring them to the attention of policymakers, so they can take action.

3. DNA profiles of those arrested or charged with a minor offence and found innocent will be destroyed and those not convicted of a serious crime can only be kept for a maximum of three years (or five years, subject to court approval).

From the suggestions: Repeal/Scrapping of Police DNA Database for Innocent People, Remove information from police records if no charges are made and Police DNA Database.

The discussions on these ideas were very active with many concerned about the police being able to keep DNA profiles indefinitely, even if the person had been found not guilty. Some of those participating even included personal narratives and examples of innocent people who have found themselves of the DNA database, despite not have committed a crime. The discussions were an effective way for people to share evidence and examples of how laws (or the lack of in this case) had negatively impacted the lives of citizens.