Please also see the 2014 journal article Forensic DNA databases: Ethical and legal standards: A global review.
According to Interpol, seventy countries have operational forensic DNA databases. The largest DNA databases are in China (estimated at more than 8 million, less than 1% of the population), the USA (14.3 million, 4.5% of the population) and the United Kingdom (5.7 million, 9% of the population). The UK database is the only one that has reduced in size: removing records from innocent people has not had any negative effect on crime detection rates.
South Africa has a DNA database which is being expanded following adoption of a new DNA Act in 2013. The latest annual report of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board reports that over 500,000 arrestees were swabbed in 2018-2019, and over 200,000 DNA profiles were also expunged from the database. The extent of sampling is being hindered by test kit shortages such that implementation of the legislation is currently limited. Tunisia established a database in 2000. Botswana and Namibia also have small DNA databases.
There has been some public discussion about establishing a DNA database in Nigeria. The establishment of a regional database was announced in 2019 for Lagos state, called the Lagos State DNA Database (LSDD). The Lagos State DNA & Forensic Center received international accreditation in the same year (American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) for forensic DNA testing). According to Interpol, there are also plans to establish a DNA database in Senegal and Burkina Faso.
Mauritius and Tanzania have adopted DNA database legislation: a small database has been established in Mauritius. As of April 2020, the Tanzanian database was reported to be in the final stages of development, following the passing of legislation in 2009. According to Interpol, there are plans to build DNA databases in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Seychelles. . There is also an international plan to build a DNA database of pirates from Somalia.
North Africa and Middle East
According to Interpol, there are DNA databases in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon and Tunisia. However, many of these databases appear to be small or aspirational. Qatar . However, many of these databases appear to be small or aspirational. In 2017, Iran announced plans to significantly expand its database within a year. Qatar adopted DNA database legislation in September 2013.
In 2016, Kuwait became the only country in the world to adopt legislation to put its entire population and all visitors on a DNA database. However, this plan was dropped. It was found to contravene Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights by imposing unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the right to privacy. New legislation is being developed to replace it.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) appears to have dropped previous plans to build a whole population DNA database and has instead focused on improving the quality of DNA analysis from crime scenes, whilst maintaining its existing database.
Israel has a criminal DNA database and has created a controversial DNA database of African migrants crossing into Israel from Egypt.
At end 2013, Algeria received CODIS DNA database software from the USA. They have since reported to Interpol in 2019 that a database is now established. According to Interpol, DNA databases are also planned in Libya, Oman and Syria. Political instability in the region means that it is unlikely all these plans will be realised in the foreseeable future.
According to Interpol, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Indonesia , Singapore, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan Kazakhstan and Vietnam have DNA databases. In South Korea there are reports that prosecutors have been collecting DNA samples from workers convicted of engaging in strikes and other activities. According to Interpol, the world's third largest DNA database is in China, although it currently contains a small proportion of the country's population. DNA databases in China are operated by individual police forces. China has also established a database to identify missing and vagrant children. There was controversy in 2009 when China began DNA testing nightclub workers in Guangzhou and again in 2013 when police in East China’s Shandong Province sought DNA from about 5,000 male students. Most recently, collection of samples from the Uighur population in the Western region of Xingxiang has raised international attention. In 2020, it was reported that police have embarked on mass DNA collection from men and boys to enable familial tracing. There is a separate DNA database in Hong Kong and also in Taiwan. Malaysia adopted DNA legislation in 2009, but implementation was delayed pending adoption of detailed regulations in 2012. In 2012, DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution in a controversial prosecution of a politician for sodomy was ruled unreliable by a judge who discharged the case. The implementation of a biometrics registration program is to be studied in 2020, including legislative, health and privacy implications of the proposed policy to include DNA and facial recognition information in official ID documents.
In India, regional DNA databases have operated since 2000. A bill for a national database was drafted in 2007 and was subsequently revised by an expert committee. In 2015, the Bill was due to move to the Indian Parliament but became controversial due to the lack of adequate safeguards to protect rights and prevent miscarriages of justice. The Department of Biotechnology subsequently held a consultation about the Bill and is considering revisions. In 2019, ‘The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill – 2019’ to regulate DNA technology was re-introduced for establishing identity of missing persons, victims, offenders under trials and unknown deceased persons. Its provisions are currently being investigated by a parliamentary standing committee. Bangladesh's interim cabinet approved a DNA Database Act in 2013 and received CODIS DNA database software from the USA. Since 2014, over 20,000 DNA profiles have been collected.
Sri Lanka has a privately-run DNA database but has subsequently established a government laboratory, though Interpol reports that no database is currently planned. According to Interpol, Pakistan is also planning to set up a DNA database. Vietnam received CODIS DNA database software from the USA in 2015.
In Thailand, lobbyists from Gordon Thomas Honeywell (GTH) circulated draft legislation in 2010 and the Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the FBI to build the database in 2013. GTH represent US DNA testing firm Life Technologies (Applied Biosystems). In 2015, the police chief put in charge of the southern provinces bordering Malaysia told Reuters news agency that DNA samples have now been taken from more than 40,000 people in an attempt to tackle insurgency in the area.
In the Philippines, a Bill to create a DNA database was introduced to the Senate in 2013. However, it was not adopted. A new DNA database was proposed to the senate in June 2020, to cover crime scene suspects, arrested persons, convicted offenders, detainee, law enforcement and military personnel, elimination persons, missing persons, unidentified human remains and voluntary persons.
In 2008, Uzbekistan announced it would put its entire population on a DNA database, but in 2012 it said registration would only be compulsory for people convicted of serious crimes. A draft law was introduced for debate at end 2013. According to Interpol, Uzbekistan already has a DNA database, although it is not clear whether or not legislation has been adopted.
Kazakhstan adopted legislation in 2016 to add those who had committed serious crimes to a DNA database, which will come into force in 2021. Collection of DNA from individuals had commenced by 2017. It will form part of an integrated biometric system aimed at fingerprint and genomic registration, called the “The Biometric Identification of Person”.
Both Australia and New Zealand have DNA databases. According to Interpol, Fiji is planning a DNA database. In Australia each state operates its own DNA database and a national system allows profiles to be matched across states. South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory allow DNA profiles taken from innocent people to be retained. In 2008, a man was wrongfully convicted of rape in Melbourne, Victoria on the basis of a match with the DNA database and served a year in prison before being exonerated. In 2012, DNA from an autistic ten year-old boy was included in South Australia's DNA database. In 2018, the database was expanded to include kinship matching.
In 2009, new legislation in New Zealand expanded its DNA database. New Zealand is considering an automated searching and sharing system for DNA matches with the United States (similar to agreements signed by many EU countries, which have not yet been implemented in practice).
DNA databases in Europe vary widely in size and in the requirements of the legislation adopted. In 2008, in the case of S. and Marper v. the United Kingdom (known as the Marper case), the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the indefinite retention of innocent people's DNA samples, DNA profiles and fingerprints in England, Wales and Northern Ireland contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgement applies in all 47 member countries of the Council of Europe.
The UK database was the first to be established (in 1995) and is the third largest in the world (after China and the USA), containing a higher proportion of the population than any other country's database. Indefinite retention of innocent people's DNA profiles (introduced in England and Wales in 2001, but not in Scotland) became highly controversial. New legislation was introduced in 2012 to remove innocent people's and some children's records in order to comply with human rights law (the Marper judgment). In 2013, more than 1.7 million DNA profiles were removed from the database and more than 7.75 million stored DNA samples were destroyed. The match rate when a crime scene DNA profile is loaded onto the database has continued to increase, as has the proportion of recorded crimes leading to an outcome recorded by the police (such as someone being charged) following a DNA match. Thus, the new legal safeguards did not cause any reduction in the role of the database in solving crimes. However, some controversy has continued regarding the collection of DNA routinely on arrest, especially from children, retrospective sampling of convicted persons, and retention of data from persons convicted or cautioned for minor offences. In 2011-12 an innocent man spent 5 months in prison in England accused of rape due to contamination of his DNA in a forensic laboratory.
According to Interpol, DNA databases now exist in all 27 of the European Union (EU) member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary,Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.
EU countries must all implement data protection legislation in line with the EU Data Protection Directive. The inclusion of children and protestors on the DNA database in France has been controversial. Its DNA database law was found constitutional with reservations in 2010. In France, the DNA database has been growing rapidly, more than doubling in size over 5 years: there are now more than 3.2 million individual DNA profile records on the database. This could represent up to 5% of the population, however in some cases there will be repeat records of the same person, so the proportion of the population may be lower. In 2017, in the case of Aycaguer v. France, the European Court of Human Rights decided that France’s database disproportionately interferes with individuals’ privacy rights due to its one size-fits-all DNA sample retention policy of 40 years. It was ruled that the French Law is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In Germany, critics have questioned the inclusion of some categories of persons on the DNA database and plans to allow automated searches and sharing of DNA profile matches with the USA. In 2009, German police discovered they had been tracking someone they thought was a murderer for two years who turned out to be a woman involved in making cotton buds used for the collection of police DNA samples that were contaminated with her DNA. The use of DNA evidence in Italy came under international scrutiny in the case of the murder of Meredith Kercher and the subsequent conviction then acquittal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
The law in Denmark was amended to comply with the Marper judgment in 2010. It is unclear whether Estonia and Latvia are yet compliant. It also unclear to what extent Italy has implemented relatively recent legislation to establish DNA databases, with Interpol not reporting the collection of any samples, despite reporting establishment of a DNA database.
The latest report on the progress of the implementation of Prüm from the Council of the European Union (2019), indicates that there are 25 EU Member States exchanging DNA data. Greece, Ireland and Italy are not operational in the Prüm system. However, a conflicting media report in the Irish Examiner (2018), states that Ireland also implemented cross border searches, 3 years after the operationalising of its national database in 2015.
Prüm treaties have been signed to extend the agreement to non-member states Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Leichtenstein.
In 2015, the UK parliament voted to opt back into this agreement, despite concerns that its large database would give rise to large numbers of false profile matches (adventitious matches) occurring by chance with stored crime scene DNA profiles in other countries. However, some safeguards were added to reduce the number of false matches. In June 2019 the government began sharing DNA data of convicted criminals, but refused to share the DNA of suspects. Under Brexit negotiations, the UK government has agreed to continue exchanging DNA data once it has left the EU, and in June 2020, it indicated it would expand its data sharing to include DNA profiles from suspects.
According to the Interpol, DNA databases are also planned in the non-EU countries: Bosnia & Herzogovina (where Republika Srpska has proposed setting up its own database) and Moldova. Interpol reports that Montenegro has a DNA database although legislation there is pending. Montenegro is a candidate country for EU membership, whilst the other two are potential candidate countries. Another EU candidate country without a DNA database is Turkey. These countries would be required to establish DNA databases as part of the process of becoming EU member states. Two other EU candidate countries already have DNA databases: Iceland and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Other European countries with DNA databases which are not members of the EU are: Albania, Georgia, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland and Ukraine.
According to Interpol, Belarus has a DNA database, although legislation has not yet been adopted.
The world's second largest DNA database (after China's) is in the USA (although it contains a smaller proportion of the population than the UK database). The US federal DNA database (CODIS) was established in 1998 and includes DNA profiles submitted under laws which vary state by state. The Justice for All Act, 2004, expanded the national database by allowing the retention of DNA profiles from anyone charged with a felony offence. The Violence Against Women Act, 2005, allows DNA profiles to be uploaded on arrest, rather than on charge. About half of US states have changed their laws to allow collection of DNA on arrest, a practice which was found to be lawful by the US Supreme Court in 2013 (the Maryland v King case). In some states, DNA profiles taken from arrested persons are automatically removed if the person is innocent of the alleged offence, but in at least 18 states removals only take place in response to individual requests, meaning that most innocent people's DNA profiles are retained indefinitely in those states. Many DNA samples are also retained indefinitely. The New York Police Department stated in February 2020 that it would remove unconvicted people from its database which has over 33,800 samples, 5% of which derive from children. A new 2020 law has been proposed to expunge records from local databases such as the New York database, which is not regulated by any city or state government oversight. The lack of regulatory oversight has led to defence attorneys suing the NYPD to stop them collecting samples for storage, due to racial bias. In April 2020, a controversial new law came into effect to collect DNA from migrants taken into federal custody after trying to cross the U.S border.
According to Interpol, DNA databases have also been established in Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru , Jamaica, and Saint Lucia. Uruguay adopted DNA database legislation in 2011, however it is unclear to what extent this has been implemented.
In Argentina, as of 2018, regional databases had been established, but no operational national database had been implemented. In 2016, Mendoza province modified its database law by creating the “Registro Provincial de Huellas Genéticas Digitalizadas” which allowed the process of construction and consolidation to begin. From January 2017 all prisoners, convicted and imputed of all types of crimes began to be sampled. The database uses the US CODIS software system. As of 2019, 31,475 genetics profiles were incorporated into the CODIS database. Argentina does have a national database for identifying missing persons that disappeared during the dictatorship.
In Chile, a supreme court judgment in 2012 excluded young offenders from the registry.
New legislation was adopted in Brazil in 2012, with a view to expanding the DNA database. Detailed policy on implementation of the new law has been developed, with all 27 Brazilian states reported to have operational laboratories by the end of 2019. In June 2019 the database had 17,361 DNA profiles of registered convicts.
A new law was adopted in Jamaica in 2015, and the government announced the operationalisation of a database in 2017. As of 2019, the government announced the purchase of upgraded infrastructure for the database. As of June 2019, a total of 461 DNA samples had been submitted to the Institute for forensic investigations. Trinidad & Tobago adopted DNA legislation in 2007, which was revised in 2011, allowing a significantly expanded database. In May 2017, the government announced it was moving towards operationalising the DNA register, and have since obtained DNA from prisoners. As part of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019 collection of DNA for a sexual offenders registry is also underway.
The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda began setting up a DNA database in 2005, including DNA profiles of innocent people. It has stated that it plans to include its whole population in future, but this plan does not appear to be being implemented. Interpol reported in 2019 that a DNA database is now been established. DNA databases are also planned in Costa Rica, Cuba and Ecuador. Barbados adopted legislation in 2005 but does not appear to have implemented it. Mexico has created a database of police officers, including DNA, and also wishes to establish a DNA database for missing persons.