Fake Names in the UK National DNA Database

Fake Names in the UK National DNA Database

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 27, 2007 in DNA and the Law

The UK national DNA database is experiencing more bad press. Over 550,000 entries in the database are believed to be inaccurate:

  1. Some people are giving false names when their DNA is collected.
  2. There are spelling errors, incorrect addresses, and other inaccuracies.
  3. DNA profiles from over 150,000 innocent children are still on the database.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil rights group Liberty:

It is bad enough that we have a DNA database stuffed with innocents not charged with any offence, containing too many children and too great a percentage of ethnic minorities.

starbucks nameNow it turns out we don’t know the accuracy of the data. How many Postman Pats and Donald Ducks have entries on a system worthy of the Keystone Cops?

Not to be flippant about this very serious issue, but it reminds me of Starbucks fake names. Given my own unusual name, I don’t know why I’ve never used a “latte name.” I guess I shouldn’t start when or if my DNA is ever collected.

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Comment by jhay

Erroneous personal info with your DNA records? That’s just scary.

Comment by Hsien

Well, technically if they collect your DNA and don’t know your identity, it should be safe…. :P Unless you’ve already been linked in a previous incident.

Comment by Amélie Subscribed to comments via email

I thought I was being unusual and edgy using a nickname for food and drink orders! Now if it’s getting to the press, it’s not really unique anymore ;)

Comment by Hsien

lol You’ll always be unusual and edgy in my eyes, Amelie. ;)

Comment by The DNAcowboy Subscribed to comments via email

Also you didn’t mention that until now, it seems that the technology available allows preservation of DNA, at least, for 12 to 15 years.

After that it should be, or should start to be degraded, i.e. worthless!!!

Comment by Hsien

DNAcowboy, DNA degradation is an important point. There are a number of ways to store DNA to ensure its purity and stability but given that most of the technology was developed recently, we won’t know how well they’ll stand up until a decade or more from now. Meanwhile, I would say that anyone who wants to store DNA should do it in more than one format just as we would for precious digital photos – computer hard drive, external storage, CDs, and servers….

Comment by The DNAcowboy Subscribed to comments via email

Degradation is a result of many factors including air, water, humidity….etc. Models can predict DNA degradation ‘efficiency’ over time. They usually give us a 100 years, still in development, coming from a french company called ImaGene. If you understand french you can jump here:


To my understanding Imagene still exists. They have started to build a facility close to Paris. So maybe a breakthrough technology for long term DNA preservation ??? You never know.

Anyway, thanx for your very informative blog.

Comment by Hsien

Thanks, DNAcowboy. FYI, Biomatrica is another one to keep an eye on for long-term DNA storage.


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