Concerns about foreign biometrics records requests if UK joins EU crime database: report

November 11, 2015 - 

The Home Office has released a report that warns UK police run the risk of being inundated with a “high volume” of DNA and fingerprint requests from European Union countries if Britain joins a new EU crime database later this year, according to a report by The Telegraph.

The report finds that in addition to the UK police, prosecutors and the National Crime Agency (NCA) being hit with DNA and biometric requests, there could also be a greater risk of innocent civilians being accused of crimes if the UK joins the EU project.

According to the study, some EU countries, such as Germany, use lower quality DNA matching criteria than Britain, which could lead to innocent British citizens being accused of a crime because of “false positive” DNA matches.

UK MPs are scheduled to vote by the end of December on whether the country will join the Prüm system, which the former Labour Government initially signed up to in 2007 but has yet to be officially approved.

“There is a risk that there will be a high volume of follow-up work (for example interviewing those revealed by DNA or fingerprint hits to have been present at the scene of a crime) for the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Crown Office, Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland, Courts and the NCA,” said the document. “The potential inbound volumes as a result of Prüm are not known at this time but it is fair to assume that the relative ease of access via Prüm could increase the overall volume of inbound requests compared to the number of inbound Interpol requests that are currently made.”

The report also reveals that some EU states upload lower-quality DNA matches onto their databases using a lower number of ‘loci’, or the location of a gene in a person’s DNA.

This practice could lead to “false positive” matches, meaning that any British citizen whose DNA matches that of a criminal “by chance” could end up being extradited under a European Arrest Warrant.

The report states that more than 50% of Germany’s two million DNA profiles are based on these lower-quality samples, which use seven or eight loci in each DNA analysis.

This directly contradicts the recommendation that crime scene DNA samples should only be shared with EU member states when there are eight or more loci and a citizen’s personal details should only be shared when there are 10 loci.

The study said that the proposed EU database project would aim to maintain the level of false positives “within acceptable and manageable levels”.

The report also stated that British national security could be hindered by the new database unless certain safety precautions were taken to prevent disclosure of private information.

The Home Office report also included a quote from the yet-to-be-published report by the UK Prüm DNA Evaluation (UKPDE) project, which said that automatically submitting data to the new system could be a risk to national security and police investigations.

The UKPDE report recommended that there should be a “degree of human intervention” to prevent any critical information from being shared that could “interfere with ongoing intelligence gathering”, investigations, witness protection or national security.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.