UK DNA Database Contains Genetic Fingerprints of Over Four Million Individuals

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 5 2007 7:21 PM

UK DNA Database Contains Genetic Fingerprints of Over Four Million Individuals
Over a million people's genetic fingerprints have been added to the British police DNA database in the last ten months.
The "Big Brother" system, already the biggest in the world, now permanently stores the details of more than 4.5million individuals, reports the Daily Mail.

The rise is the equivalent of 150 new entries every hour. The database now covers one in 13 of the population - around 7.5 per cent.

This astonishing pace of growth has become grist for the rumour mill, with some claiming that the Gordon Brown Government plans to create a universal genetic database by stealth, treating every British citizen as a potential criminal from the day he or she is born.

Although the database is a crime-fighting tool, producing around 3,000 matches a month with samples taken from crime scenes, around a third of all the DNA stored is taken from individuals who were not charged with any offence, and have no criminal record.

Critics raised particular concerns over the huge rise in the number of children on the database. It now includes 150,000 under-16s.

The DNA records, which are taken regardless of whether a youngster has committed a crime or not, are held on file until the day they die.

Critics believe the system is open to sinister forms of abuse, and that the dangers are growing as the database expands.

Campaigners also fear unscrupulous government agencies could use the database to track political protesters, find out who they are related to, or to refuse jobs or visas to anyone considered "undesirable".

They have demanded tougher safeguards, including time limits on storing data and an independent regulator.

In the past, police could take a DNA sample only from suspects who were charged with a criminal offence, and it was destroyed if they were subsequently cleared or a prosecution dropped.

But under reforms introduced in 2000, officers no longer have to erase innocent people's entries.

In 2004 police were given the power to take DNA swabs from anyone placed under arrest.

That paved the way for the massive growth in the size of the database seen in recent months.

The latest published figures show a total of 4,523,154 entries held by mid-October.


Recommended Readings
Latest Genetics & Stem Cells News
View All

open close