UK: Police DNA Database Will Not Eliminate Records of Innocent Individuals

It was a shock for me to find out that Vancouver Police Department, for example, has information on as much as three quarters of local population in their databases, even though, these are technically innocent individuals who have not committed any acts of crime. Similarly, in UK, the public was surprised to find out that police DNA databases contained more than data collected on convicted criminals.

Absent of any regulation, the databases contained a wealth of information on more than those who had to pay the piper. Instead, it was determined that the databases contains ALL the records of DNA collected, including that of innocent contributors, often asked to submit genetic samples in order to be eliminated as suspects or associates in a case of a criminal activity.

The recent development in law enforcement allows the officials in UK to simply compare the DNA from the scene of a crime to all previously recorded samples. Even though this is technically in violation of the Data Protection Act, which would potentially render the evidence inadmissible in a court setting, the use of the samples creates a new paradigm in which all citizens, convicted or not, are surveyed as potential criminals.

The Big Brother scenarios such as above, are commonly appearing at a greater frequency. But the public outrage now demands all records of innocent individuals be removed from databases and destroyed within the period of 5 years.

EU has already conducted discussions on how to curb the technological desire and ease with which privacy of individuals, especially when it comes to something as uniquely identifying as genetic materials, are sacrificed for the ease of law enforcement, marketing efforts or general bureaucracy. In the 2008 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, the decision quite clearly states that any identifying materials pointing to innocent individuals should be removed from such databases.

Now, it only remains to be seen what UK government does under pressure and how well it will perform the elimination of these records.
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