Feeds

DNA database 'will span most of the UK population'

Even human rights appeal case will not lessen its reach

High performance access to file storage

The Government's DNA retention policy combined with increasingly sophisticated statistical techniques means that eventually most citizens in the UK will be linked to data stored on the police's DNA database, according to a privacy law expert.

The outcome of an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that challenges the UK's DNA retention policy will not limit the ultimate reach of the DNA database, only the speed of its compilation, says Dr Chris Pounder of Pinsent Masons.

Under last year's Police and Justice Act, the police are allowed to retain DNA data on those arrested even if those arrested are not convicted of or even charged with any crime. Data derived from these samples are then added to the National DNA Database.

Michael Marper's case before the ECHR could change this law. Marper was accused of harassment by his partner. He was arrested and DNA samples were taken. The charges were dropped when he reconciled with his partner, but police refused to destroy his DNA samples and related data.

Marper exhausted his appeals through the English courts and then complained to the ECHR that the retention of his DNA is a breach of his rights to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights. Earlier this year the ECHR decided that there was enough of importance in the case that it will hear it.

"The court finds that serious questions of fact and law arise, the determination of which should depend on an examination of the merits," said the ECHR in January. "The application cannot be regarded as manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of the convention. No other grounds for declaring it inadmissible have been established."

The ECHR has previously ruled in favour of the police's right to retain DNA, but that case involved a man who had been convicted of a crime. A Dutch bank robber, Mr Van der Velden, argued that police had failed to respect his private life by storing his DNA profile. The ECHR said that this interference with his privacy was proportionate.

The Marper case tests the legality of storing the DNA of people who have not been convicted of a crime. But its outcome is largely redundant because of the emergence of statistical techniques which match DNA on the database to relatives, according to Dr Pounder, a privacy law specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. These techniques use the genetic fact that an individual's DNA sample is related to the DNA of close family members.

"A national DNA database of the future is likely to span 80 per cent to 100 per cent of the population. The only question is when this will occur," said Pounder.

Home Office statistics state that 33 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women under the age of 35 have a criminal record not related to motoring offences. However, DNA data of those convicted of a crime are never deleted, even when the individual who has provided the sample has died.

"This means that the maximum DNA database coverage of the UK population would inevitably reach 20-25 per cent if current criminal trends remain constant," said Pounder. "Hence the value to the police of statistical methods which aim to identify suspects whose DNA details are not on the database from those whose details are stored on the database."

Pounder anticipates that statistical techniques will develop and become more sophisticated. "In future, a DNA profile of someone arrested could be statistically linked to more and more relatives like parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, many of whom will not have been arrested," he said.

"In that way, the DNA database, even though it contains data relating to criminals, will span most of the UK population," Pounder said. "If you are ever related to someone with a criminal record, your DNA will have the potential to be linked to that individual's police records."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
Bad PUPPY: Undead Windows XP deposits fresh scamware on lawn
Installing random interwebs shiz will bork your zombie box
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.