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Thursday, October 22, 2009

DNA database falling down says report

Arguments in favour of expanding the DNA database held by the Police have been undermined today by a report in the Guardian newspaper.

They say that a report on the database covering the years 2007-08 shows that crimes cleared up as a result of a match on the DNA database fell from 41,148 to 31,915 over the period. At the same time the number of DNA profiles on the database – already the largest in the world – rose from 4.6m to 5.6m. Duplicates mean that the police database now holds details of 4.89 million individuals. The database's running costs have doubled to £4.2m a year.

Now this is not an argument against the use of DNA to solve crimes, it is still an extremely effective tool for the prevention and detection of crime, but it does underline the case against a universal database. The more data that is held then the bigger the chances of mistakes, false positives and duplication, undermining the efficacy of the system.

It also supports the case to remove the profiles of innocent people off the system. DNA databases are most effective when they are properly focussed and targeted on the most likely suspects or as a one-off exercise concentrated on a particular crime and its vicinity. There is no need to hold the profiles of those who have been acquitted of crimes or have not even been charged with one.

Maybe the Home Office will finally get the message. Or maybe not!


Peter, there is a wider issue here - and that is the ability of current technology to store, mange and retrieve large amounts of data - and this is across all aspects of data collection. The problem is that we collect data but use information. If you want to know more - let me know - I have lectured on this in the past -and been paid for it :-).
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