New UK Protection of Freedoms Act outlines rules for DNA retention

by jeeg 4. May 2012 20:25

A new law governing the gathering and retention of data including biometric and DNA information has come into force in the UK.


Under the Protection of Freedoms (PoF) Act, which received Royal Assent on 1 May, police will have to destroy DNA and fingerprint data if it is deemed to have been collected unlawfully or based on mistaken identity.

Although the Supreme Court ruled last year that police guidelines that allowed DNA samples taken during criminal investigations to be retained indefinitely were unlawful, the PoF does allow for "indefinite" retention in some cases.

This includes where arrested suspects have been guilty of a previous serious crime previously and for national security purposes unless a Biometrics Commissioner decides that it is "not necessary" for those purposes that the information is retained.

However, the Human Rights Joint Committee had criticised part of the DNA and fingerprint retention clause as not being proportionate. It said it would "create broad 'catch all' discretion for the police to authorise the retention of material indefinitely for reasons of national security."

Schools and further education bodies will, however, be allowed to process and store "physical or behavioral characteristics or features" about a child without parental consent in some circumstances.

Although the Act requires that parents generally be notified, exceptions include when a parent cannot be found, if they lack mental capacity to consent or if parents cannot be contacted for child welfare reasons.

If a child objects, schools must not process that child's biometric data even if parental consent has been obtained.

A code of practice will also govern public surveillance using CCTV systems and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology. This "must contain guidance" on the appropriate use of surveillance cameras, their locations, the publication of information about the systems.

The code also states that who can and does have access to the information gathered and how and when that information can be disclosed.

The Home Office said the new surveillance camera code would ensure a more "proportionate and effective" use of the technology.

Dinah Greek, Computer Active


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