Please also see the 2014 journal article Forensic DNA databases: Ethical and legal standards: A global review.
Sixty four countries have operational forensic DNA databases: Austria, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Botswana, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Korea (Rep. of), Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Lebanon, Macedonia (FYR), Malaysia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan.
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 will be expanded following adoption of a new DNA Act in 2013. However, progress in implementing the Act has been slow. Botswana and Namibia also have small DNA databases.
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 Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon and Tunisia. However, many of these databases appear to be small or aspirational. 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. Implementation of this plan is pending. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) appears to have dropped previous plans to do so 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.
There is a plan build a DNA database in Algeria and a small number of samples have already been collected. At end 2013, Algeria received CODIS DNA database software from the USA. 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.
The six member countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have previously discussed plans to exchange fingerprint and security information, potentially including DNA profiles, between states. However, it is unclear whether this plan is being implemented.
According to Interpol, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Indonesia and Singapore 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. 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.
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.
Bangladesh's interim cabinet approved a DNA Database Act in 2013 and received CODIS DNA database software from the USA.
Sri Lanka has a privately-run DNA database but has subsequently established a government laboratory and is planning a DNA database. According to Interpol, Brunei, Vietnam and Pakistan are also planning to set up DNA databases. 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 does not appear to have been adopted.
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.
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 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).
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.
DNA databases currently exist in 26 of the 28 European Union (EU) member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
A DNA database is being set up in Ireland, where legislation was adopted in 2014 and samples began to be collected in November 2015. Malta will also need to establish a DNA database to comply with the EU's Pruem Decisions (which require all EU countries to set up DNA databases and implement automated sharing of DNA profile matches across borders) and has received some EU funding to do so.
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: more than 2.6 million individuals now have DNA profiles on the database (4% of the population.
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 Greece and Italy have implemented relatively recent legislation to establish DNA databases.
By end 2014, 21 EU countries had implemented automated searches and sharing of DNA profile matches across borders under the EU Pruem decisions. 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. Additional safeguards are expected to be implemented before this goes ahead.
According to the Interpol, DNA databases are also planned in the non-EU countries: Albania and Bosnia & Herzogovina (where Republika Srpska has proposed setting up its own database). 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. Other EU candidate countries without DNA databases are Serbia and Turkey. These countries will be required to establish DNA databases as part of the process of becoming EU member states.
Norway and Iceland have agreements with the EU on DNA match sharing across borders.
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.
According to Interpol, DNA databases have also been established in Argentina,Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Jamaica. Uruguay adopted DNA database legislation in 2011, however it is unclear to what extent this has been implemented.
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 and some DNA profiles have been collected. A new law was adopted in Jamaica in 2015. Trinidad & Tobago adopted DNA legislation in 2007, which was revised in 2011, allowing a significantly expanded database.
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.
Panama is developing a DNA database and, according to Interpol, DNA databases are also planned in the Bahamas, 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.