Does Mass DNA Collection work?

In 2007 the House of Lords started a select committee investigation into privacy,  entitled “The Impact of Surveillance and Data Collection upon the Privacy of Citizens and their Relationship with the State

The results of this report, published in 2009, where damning of the goverments invasion into peoples lives from CCTV to DNA, and called for a reduction in much of this state apparatus, including the taking DNA from every arrested individual, regardless of guilt.

Part of the evidence provided to the House of Lords was from GeneWatch, whose evidence is reported here.

In there report GeneWatch shows that while the collection of  DNA samples from crime scenes was important in the detection of crime, however the collection of DNA from everyone had little effect

“Since April 2003, about 1.5 million extra people have been added to the Database, but the chances of detecting a crime using DNA has remained roughly constant, at about 0.36%.  The Home Office appears to accept that the retention of DNA from innocent people has had little impact on crime detection rates  and seems unable to quantify the claimed benefits.”

GeneWatch also drew the distinction between DNA matches and detections, and showed that the figures reported in Parliment for benifits of mass DNA collection are a “high number of matches” do not stand up to scrutinty. If every person in the country had DNA taken, and every crime scene was checked for DNA, there would be a 100% “match” of DNA at every crime scene, but not necessarily a detection; this is because the matches of the innocent people who have been at the scene will be a “match” and the true offender may not have left and recoverable DNA.

GeneWatch Stated:

“In Parliament, ministers have repeatedly provided figures for DNA matches, rather than detections or convictions. DNA matches are much more frequent than successful prosecutions – they will include many matches with the DNA of victims and of passers-by. Despite the lack of evidence on successful prosecutions, the figures on matches have repeatedly been used by ministers to justify the changes in the law  and have also frequently been misreported as ’solved’ crimes.”

As well as the House of Lords, the ICO has also called into question the ethics of mass DNA collection.

With GeneWatch, the House of Lords, the ICO, and many other respected bodies comming out against mass DNA collection, as well as the ECHR finding against the UKs DNA retention policy, in the S and Marper case, when will the goverment change its direction.

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One Response to “Does Mass DNA Collection work?”

  1. DNA: Does the DNA database work? « Data – Where is it? Says:

    [...] is an impressive technology, and can solve crimes that traditional policing methods cannot; however mass DNA sampling does not work, in fact DNA sampling follows the laws of diminishing returns. The more DNA that is taken, the less [...]


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