Is the DNA database too big?

July 30, 2008

a genetic blueprint in the DNA labWhose DNA is it anyway?

A “citizens’ inquiry” instigated by the Human Genetics Commission, a government advisory body, wants the records of people who have not been convicted, or whose convictions are long spent, to be deleted from the forensic National DNA Database and says the whole archive should be overseen by an independent body.

The database was established in 1995 in Britain – the country where scientists first pioneered the technique of DNA fingerprinting.

It now contains genetic profiles on more than 4 million people, representing the highest proportion of any population on a forensic DNA database in the world, at over 6 percent.

A future government might misuse the information, members of the inquiry fear. One  says keeping all the DNA records would be the first step towards a totalitarian state.

Police, though, find the database a boon, especially in trying to solve “cold” cases from the past.

What do you think? Is the database becoming too big?


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In my opinion if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to lose by having your information on the database.

Posted by Dave Winter | Report as abusive

“In my opinion if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to lose by having your information on the database.”

Utter rubbish and very short sighted, this database is forever and not just for xmas. The world is run by people who make money, it is just a matter of time before your DNA is read by companies to work out how much money they can make from you or sold to the highest bidder for marketing purposes. To suggest otherwise is folly

Posted by Trevor | Report as abusive

As a casual DNA observer, my understanding may not be competely correct on this but I understood a DNA profile to be a statistical analysis of certain repeat structures in sectors of the DNA molecule (hence the term profile). That analysis can be compared against another to determine the likliehood of a match. My understanding was that this profile contains only limited genetic information. So, is the Commission concerned over the retention of profiles or the retention of the original sample?

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

This country could be virtually free of unsolved crime if we had everyones DNA on record. Yes some safegaurds would be required and procedures would need to beyond reproach. As a crime deterent, I would have to think very long and hard before committing any type of criminal activity because I would know I would get a visit within hours or days from the Police. Nothing to hide = no fear.

Posted by paul ingham | Report as abusive

“Nothing to hide” arguments are all very well, but since we all know the government couldn’t run a whelk stall (all the whelks would be stolen on a train to Waterloo) all of this poses a very big threat to our rights as individuals. Freedom isn’t a relative concept. “I don’t think I want you to have that information” is a perfectly good argument in itself, without any further explanation of any kind. I don’t want anybody to have access to my DNA, fingerprints, a list of my favourite foods or pubs, sexual preferences, shoe size, photograph, or anything else about me, unless either it’s absolutely necessary or I say so. It isn’t absolutely necessary for anyone to have innocent people’s DNA. End of story.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

I don’t think we can honestly predict any future legislation that might be passed which would make activities currently regarded as law abiding illegal. It is of some concern to me that my harvested DNA could be used to convict for doing something that I regard as legal, especially if enforced retrospectively. I cannot therefore agree that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. For now, they have not, but not necessarily in the future.

Posted by Zach | Report as abusive

if the police can’t keep fingerprints of the innocent — how is it they can keep dna records? there really is only one answer and its just one word — NO !!!

Posted by barryhorne | Report as abusive

the “nothing to hide” comment is absolute son is a probation officer and comes into contact with viloent criminals on a daily basis many of whom are repeat offenders.each time he coughs,scratches, sneezes etc small particles of his dna are expelled into the air,( police dna swabs are taken from inside the mouth remember) some of which will be absorbed by his clients clothing and be transported to god only knows where, i.e. his dna will be at the scene of a you may say {quite rightly} that dna evidence is not accepted in court as absolute proof on its own,but over the years there have been hundreds of cases where arrested peoples lives have been ruined {and dozens of suicides) even after overwhelminly being proven innocent. how would you feel if every time you left your house you had to wonder if you were going to be abused or even attacked mearly because of a whispering campaign?

Posted by james lambert | Report as abusive

I disagree with the nothing to hide, nothing to loose arguments. The database in itself will not solve crimes, nor prevent them. These will still take a fully staffed, efficient and effective police force as well as a legal system that appropriately penalizes crime (i.e. 2 weeks suspended for carrying a knife is not acceptable), and infrastructure – i.e. jails etc. Case in point, the (spy)camera netwrok was touted to reduce crime – it might have done so briefly (statistics!), but now is arguably ineffective (more statistics!). All it does is provide a recording of a crime occuring (if that!) and is very little use in prevention and prosecution!

In addition, the existence of an effective police force backed by a judicial system with teeth will be a stronger deterrent than an additional layer of ‘information with little action’. Finally, it is the priniciple that matters – similar to the situation of ‘I kept quiet untill they came for me’… or in this instance “its ok, until it stops working, or goes wrong”.

The money and effort is better invested in building out the police and giving them and the judicial system bite, rather than in the Database.

Posted by Z | Report as abusive

There is an assumption that having a national database of DNA profiles is a restriction on liberty. But it could be just the opposite.
Data published in the US showed that the first 18,000 DNA tests carried out by the FBI eliminated around 5,000 “suspects” from enquiries immediately. They may have been eliminated anyway, but they may have had to defend themselves in court with all the worry – and the risk of false conviction – that entails.
And during the 1990s, more than 60 guilty verdicts were overthrown solely on the basis of DNA evidence. Those were all life terms and the falsely convicted would probably still be in jail today without DNA evidence.
DNA is not fool proof – it is just another forensic tool – but let’s try to put the “risks” and the “benefits” in some sort of sensible perspective.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

It’s not just DNA records of people who have not been convicted, or whose convictions are long spent, it also applies to people who have been arrested but not charged!

It beggers belief that anyone who has been arrested and then released should have their DNA taken and held. This is what you get from socialist governments!

Posted by Stephen Roberts | Report as abusive

There needs to be a criterion for the retention of DNA which is universally understood. If EVERYONE’s DNA is kept on record I don’t have problem; I don’t have a problem if, say, convicted or cautioned personnel (or a victim or anyone else if they give permission) but I DO have a problem if a record is kept on entirely the say-so of the police. If the police wish to retain a DNA record (other than those given above) they should have to present a case to a court and it be granted by a magistrate/judge and for the person whose record is kept to (a) know and (b) the able to challenge it.

Posted by Alastair Alexander | Report as abusive

On the basis that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to lose, why then, do the politicians who are ramming this down our throats so robustly refuse public scrutiny of their financial, public and private dealings?

No good will come of this database. No good at all for the common citizen.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

A DNA database is a GOOD thing !, it may not reduce crime but may help and I stress may help catch people who commit crime. And it’s surly just a database of profiles and not your bank details and for those who say its against their Human rights and all that rubbish GROW UP, next you will be asking the banks to delete all the information held about their customers.

Posted by mick | Report as abusive

With such an introspective attitude we are likely to disappear up our own backsides while the country goes bankrupt. We need to work harder on making a commercial success and improve our standard of living and reduce the number of parasites in our society, not increase them. So it has to be a NO to a whole of population DNA database.

Posted by William Fowler | Report as abusive

“This country could be virtually free of unsolved crime if we had everyones DNA on record.”

Didn’t we hear the same argument used regarding CCTV?

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

What a lot of idiots, go back to watching X-files, you probably think it’s real!

I’d like to use every modern tool in the box to catch the those who rob, mug and kill.

Odd how many “innocents” turned out to be guilty of serious crimes, I know you don’t about crimals being caught but I do.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Eight years ago i had my DNA taken to “eliminate” me from a then enquiry.
I Could not have been present at any of the offences but the officers concerned did not want, (or be bothered to) make TWO phone calls!
To my knowledge i am still part of this database.
The authorities already know everything else about us. Is it not the last Truly private thing left to us ?

Posted by marc neudeck | Report as abusive

People condemed the natzi’s for tattoing the jews to identify them, this DNA database is practically the same thing. Our forefathers fought for our freedom and they will be turning in their graves. We say NO! No! NO!

Posted by Lyn | Report as abusive