Forensic biometrics data storage practices, failures spotlighted by UK FOIA request
Biometric material has been collected for forensic purposes since before the formulation and adoption of standards and best practices for keeping it safe. Public agencies are playing catch-up.
Details about the DNA samples lost by police forces in the UK have been revealed under a Freedom of Information Act request by the office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner.
The annual report from Commissioner Fraser Sampson revealed that some 1,500 DNA samples had been compromised or lost, leading to the FOIA request made through transparency organization WhatDoTheyKnow.
The number of currently-lost samples is likely lower than the figure provided, Sampson says, because, “FINDS report samples as lost where they have a list of samples waiting for either the DNA profile to be loaded to the National DNA Database or an update to PNC to indicate the status of the sample e.g. destroyed. Some of these samples will have since been located and either submitted to a Forensic Service Provider for a profile to be obtained and loaded to the National DNA Database or destroyed if the sample is no longer required.”
Thirty-five police forces in the UK lost at least one DNA sample, according to the figures provided in Sampson’s response. Several lost only a single sample, while the Metropolitan Police unsurprisingly had the most, at 931. West Midlands lost 318 samples.
Redacted minutes from visits to Sussex and Surrey Police were also provided to comply with the transparency request. Those notes indicate uncertainty over what samples are held in physical storage, how “lost” is defined, and therefore the accuracy of the reporting.
Labs certified for forensic standards compliance
Danish National ID Centre (NIDC) has been certified for conformance to a registry of standards and best practices for forensic and biometric service providers.
The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) has awarded NIDC a Registry Standards Implementer Certificate for forensic and biometric examination methods, with particular reference to its facial identification practices.
OSAC is the forensics standards body operated by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The same body has also certified four labs operated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the state government announced.