Summary by region
The Council for Responsible Genetics has published a comprehensive review of existing DNA database laws. However, some countries are expanding databases without new laws and others have adopted legislation that has not been implemented in practice. In many countries, there are ongoing policy debates about establishing new DNA databases or expanding existing ones.
South Africa has a DNA database which it is considering expanding: a new Bill is being developed. Botswana also has a small DNA database and Mauritius and Tanzania have adopted DNA database legislation.
Legislation to establish a DNA database in Nigeria is under consideration.
According to Interpol's 2008 survey, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe also plan to build new DNA databases: further information is not yet available about these countries. Ghana is also reported to be planning a DNA database.
North and East Africa and Middle East
Israel is currently considering new legislation for a DNA database of missing persons.
UAE is currently the only country in the world that is actively engaged in trying to put its entire population on a DNA database.
According to Interpol's 2008 survey, there are plans to build DNA databases in Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar and Syria. We have yet to identify any further information about these plans. Recent political events mean that it is unlikely all these plans will be realised in the foreseeable future.
There is an international plan to build a DNA database of pirates from Somalia.
The six member countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have discussed plans to exchange fingerprint and security information, potentially including DNA profiles, between states.
The world's third largest DNA database is in China, although it currently contains a small proportion of the country's population.
In India, regional DNA databases have operated since 2000. A bill for a national database was drafted in 2007.
Brunei, Nepal and Pakistan are planning to set up DNA databases. According to Interpol's 2008 survey, Indonesia and Thailand also plan to establish DNA databases. No further information is yet available about these plans.
There are no current plans for a DNA database in the Philippines, but repeated attempts to establish one have been made in the past.
In 2008, Uzbekistan announced it would put its entire population on a DNA database.
Both Australia and New Zealand have DNA databases. 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 2009, new legislation in New Zealand expanded its DNA database.
DNA databases in Europe vary widely in size and in the requirements of the legislation adopted. The UK database was the first to be established (in 1995) and is the second largest in the world (after the USA), containing a higher proportion of the population than any other country's database. New legislation is currently being introduced to remove innocent people's records in order to comply with human rights law.
DNA databases currently exist in 25 of the 27 European Union (EU) member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, , Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
However, it is unclear to what extent Greece, Italy and Portugal have implemented relatively recent legislation.
A DNA database is currently planned in Ireland. Malta will also need to establish a DNA database to comply with the EU's Pruem Decisions (which require sharing of DNA profile matches across all databases in the EU): it has received EU funding to do so.
According to the 2008 Interpol Survey, DNA databases are also planned in the non-EU countries: Albania, Bosnia & Herzogovina and Montenegro: further information about these plans has not yet been identified. Montenegro is a candidate country for EU membership. Another EU candidate country without a DNA database is Turkey.
In 2008, in the Marper case, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the indefinite retention of innocent peoples DNA samples, DNA profiles and fingerprints in England, Wales and Northern Ireland contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. Laws in the UK (except Scotland), Denmark, Estonia and Latvia have been or may need to be changed to comply with the judgement, which applies in all 47 member countries of the Council of Europe.
The world's largest DNA database 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. DNA profiles taken from arrested persons are not automatically removed if the person is innocent, although the individual can request removal. About half of US states have changed their laws to allow collection of DNA on arrest, although these laws are subject to ongoing legal challenges.
DNA databases have also been established in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, Panama and Uruguay. New legislation is currently being considered in Brazil, with a view to expanding the DNA database (which currently includes only convicted sex offenders). A new law is also planned in Jamaica. Trinidad & Tobago adopted DNA legislation in 2007, which is being revised.
The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda began setting up a DNA database in 2005, including DNA profiles of innocent people. It plans to include its whole population in future.
Argentina has a database containing DNA donated voluntarily by families whose children disappeared during the dictatorship.
DNA databases are planned in the Bahamas and Costa Rica. According to the Interpol 2008 survey, new databases are also planned in Barbados, Cuba and Venezuela, however we have been unable to find any further information about these plans to date. Mexico wishes to establish a DNA database for missing persons.