back to article DNA database 'will span most of the UK population'

The Government's DNA retention policy combined with increasingly sophisticated statistical techniques means that eventually most citizens in the UK will be linked to data stored on the police's DNA database, according to a privacy law expert. The outcome of an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that challenges …


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Three cheers for the Police Paternity Database!

OK, so the police are slowly building up a database of the DNA of everyone who comes into contact with them, and presumably have a fairly complete database on the familial relationships of everyone in the UK. So, they know who everyone's brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and uncles are, right?

Err no, they don't.

As far as is known (and the police could probably comment more authoritatively on this) between 2% and 15% of children are not sired by the person who is officially their father. The rate is lowest where the husband is high status (i.e. really rich and powerful) and highest where the husband is low-status (i.e. on benefits, poor, a regular "customer" of the police).

This has two implications. Firstly, there will be an error rate for the statistics of around 10% or thereabouts, which will force the police to go back to basic police work to secure convictions, and may free the odd criminal on appeal.

Secondly and more sinisterly, the database will also be proof that certain people were not fathered by their official daddy, which is proof absolute of infidelity.

This might just be a show-stopper; if the data ever gets out, and given this Government's record on data security this is pretty near certain. When investigating a crime, an outsider could even, by a process of deduction, work out that a family member who _should_ have been arrested but was not arrested could not be sired by the same father hence was someone else's bastard.

This sort of information leaking is not what the database was designed for, and should probably limit its use to straight identification, unless the police wish to dice with the moral and ethical conundrums that come with sensitive medical data. My guess is that they simply have not thought it out and would rather not face the problem until it bites them, which is a very silly attitude to take.


Copyright and DMCA

How original must a product be to be allowed to be copyrighted?

If I register a copyright and a possible trademark etc on my DNA, That would render any unlicensed dealings with my DNA illegal and punishable by law - wouldn't it?

It's of course difficult to sue any government organisation but still...


Point on paternity

The comment made by Dr Dan H notes that "between 2% and 15% of children are not sired by the person who is officially their father. The rate is ... highest where the husband is low-status (i.e. on benefits, poor, a regular "customer" of the police)." So, from the Police's perspective, the more useful the data is, the more likely it is to be wrong anyway?!

Anonymous Coward

Not so much infidelity

I've observed a few families like that, from a distance, and heard about some extreme cases via my contacts in the teaching profession, and I don't think there's any infidelity going on: it's just that men are moving in and out at such a rate that children are rarely brought up by their biological fathers. They perhaps don't tell the children that their parents are not their "real" parents, because of the "someone else's bastard" stigma, but none of the adults involved are in any way deceived.

This does make the police work a bit harder but it doesn't make the DNA information useless. It is presumably quite helpful to know that one is looking for a biological brother of such and such a person.

Is there such a concept as "person who is officially their father" in the UK? There's the father's name given on the birth certificate, but no one takes that very seriously, and the field is often left blank. Schools, etc are only interested to know who the current guardians are. Unless there's a legal dispute that hinges on paternity nothing needs to be make official, and in general, as far as I know, nothing is made official. People can live their entire lives without any official record being made of who their father might be.

The police DNA database might lead to people being more interested in biological parentage than they are now.

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