Twenty-five years ago. a British geneticist discovered DNA fingerprinting and profiling. The Associated Press reports that today Alec Jeffreys is “worried that police are using a database of DNA samples taken from suspects to brand innocent people ‘future criminals.'”
Britain’s DNA database is the largest in the world, containing genetic profiles of more than 5 million people. Samples are taken from everyone arrested for a crime – and the information is usually retained even if the person is acquitted or freed without charge.
Jeffreys, 59, said about 800,000 innocent people are on the database, raising fears of “discrimination, breach of genetic privacy, stigmatization – there’s a whole host of issues here.”
“Innocent people do not belong on that database,” Jeffreys, a geneticist at the University of Leicester in central England, told the BBC. “Branding them as future criminals is not a proportionate response in the fight against crime.” […]
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Britain’s “blanket and indiscriminate” policy of retaining genetic information breached the right to privacy.
In response, Britain agreed to remove hundreds of thousands of innocent people from the database, but said it would still keep the profiles of those cleared of serious crimes for up to 12 years. Critics, including Jeffreys, say the decision flouts the spirit of the court ruling.
The European Court of Human Rights made the decision (pdf) last December. It said that retaining innocent individuals’ genetic data in the UK National DNA Database was a violation of human rights, specifically “the right to respect for his private and family life” set out in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf). The decision affects individuals age 10 or older who have been acquitted or had charges against them dropped after their arrest in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.