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Home Office defends sharing DNA database

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The Home Office is under fire for allowing foreign agencies access to the National DNA Database (NDNAD).

Following the news two weeks ago that the ID card database will be shared, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokeswoman Lynne Featherstone asked in parliament whether foreign law enforcement can already access DNA data. Home Office minister Joan Ryan confirmed that since 2004 they had received 519 requests for UK DNA data from abroad. No records are available from before that time, she added.

Featherstone said yesterday: "What confidence can we have in the Government's reassurance of the DNA database having proper safeguards when, until last year, they didn't even collate requests properly?"

NDNAD contains profiles collected from crime scenes, and of suspects in criminal investigations. Samples are held indefinitely, regardless of whether an individual is convicted of a crime. Carrying the profiles of around 3.5m people, including more than half a million children under 16, it is the world's largest law enforcement DNA database.

Featherstone called for an independent watchdog to monitor foreign access to the NDNAD. She said: "There are no real safeguards in place to control this huge database which leaves it open for misuse - and now we find out it's not only being misused in our country but also internationally."

In a statement, the Home Office said: "The increasing ease of travel and communication between EU member-states has also resulted in a higher risk of criminal activity crossing the borders of EU member-states.

"With the increase in the use of DNA technology to prevent and detect crime across the world, DNA profiles are exchanged more frequently between countries. This is essential to provide intelligence which will assist the investigation of increasingly trans-national crime."

The Home Office did not comment on who exactly it has shared DNA with, or if it makes similar personal data requests to countries itself.

Featherstone said the fact the DNA database was already being shared without public knowledge or proper checks in place does not bode well. She said: "This is a bad omen for the upcoming ID register, now the Government has made it clear that our personal data can be shared with foreign countries."®

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