Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/09/17/dna_purge/

Innocent 'terror techie' purges DNA records

Proved exceptional

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Law, 17th September 2007 14:37 GMT

More than two years after his arrest and subsequent release, techie and some-time Reg contributor David Mery has succeeded in purging the police databases of his fingerprints and DNA.

Mery was arrested in London (at an underground station) three weeks after four misguided* souls blew up the public transport network. He was wearing a coat, carrying a rucksack, behaving like a bit of a geek by checking his mobile phone, and reading a print-off from Wikipedia**. This drew the attention of London's finest, and Mery was soon helping the police with their enquiries.

While he was in custody his DNA was sampled and his fingerprints and palmprints were taken (you can read the whole story here).

Eventually, he was released and all charges were dropped. Two months later most of his possessions were returned to him, but the police records of his DNA and fingerprints were retained.

Since then, Mery has tried to get the police to scrap the bio data on him and get rid of the record of his fingerprints. To do so, one must convince the force that the case is "exceptional". Last year, just 115 cases were ruled to be "exceptional" by the UK's police forces and deleted from the database. A total of 667,737 records were added in the same period.

In related news, the British Society of Human Genetics meeting in York heard today that we need tighter controls on what may be done with DNA that has been collected for research. According to the BBC, researchers are under pressure from the organisations that fund them to allow the DNA to be used for purposes other than those for which it was collected.

Professor Marcus Pembrey, an expert in paediatric genetics, said: "The worry is there is a trend coming from pressure from the funders saying that all scientists should have unfettered access."

He warned that there was a risk that data could even make its way onto the web.

Tomorrow, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics will be publishing its Report The Forensic Use of Bioinformation: Ethical Issues. ®

* Nutters

** David has contacted us to say that he was reading an article about Wikipedia, not a print off from it. We apologise unreservedly for any embarrassment our terrible gaffe might have caused.