Did the Police “secretly” build a database of our DNA with nasal swabs?

By June 21, 2022 COVID-19, Crime, Government

We came across this message on a Singapore-based Telegram group:

The author of the message shares the link to an article published on The Straits Times’ Facebook page. The article is titled “DNA matching helps police hit 100% success rate in cracking murders: SIS chief”.

In response to the article, the author of the message poses a question – if a “DNA database” was “secretly” built using “our nasal swabs”. The author also questions how the public would be able to “ensure the integrity of the database”.

It’s not specified what exactly these nasal swabs are and their purpose, but in the context of the sentence, it does seem like the author might referring to the nasal swabs that most individuals in Singapore would have taken when doing COVID-19 ART and PCR tests.

What the article actually covered

In the article, we read about Superintendent Roy Lim, the head of the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Special Investigation Section (SIS), who said that the Police “have had a 100 per cent success rate in solving murders (in the past eight to nine years), and DNA plays a huge role in this”

According to the article, the SPF has been using DNA to solve crimes from 1991, and it launched a DNA database in 2004, “storing profiles built on blood or mouth swab samples obtained from known criminals, which would be screened against DNA found at crimes scenes to find a match”.

These “known criminals” are those who have been “convicted of registrable crimes, which include offences under the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act”. However, those who have been acquitted of the crime or have died will have their DNA immediately removed from the database, under the Registration of Criminals Act.

Additionally, individuals may also volunteer to contribute their DNA to the database:

In April, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Mr K. Shanmugam cited a rape case that occurred in 2002, and which went unsolved from over a decade. Eventually, the case was solved after investigators matched the DNA profile taken from the rape scene with a blood sample from a theft case involving the same perpetrator.

What constitutes a ‘body sample’?

Going back to the Registration of Criminals Act, we read under the “Taking of body samples” section that a “body sample” is only defined to be:

As seen, it is specifically mentioned that samples should not be obtained from “a person’s body orifice other than the mouth”.

Additionally, conspiracy theories that the tests for COVID-19 were being used to collect individuals’ DNA were also floating around since all the way back in 2020. A tweet had even dubbed the tests the “largest collection of human data in history, with NO consent”.

These theories were quickly debunked by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and independent scientists, who clarified that “while the swab used in the PCR test would likely possess some human DNA, the sequencing is carried out on the coronavirus”, and “human genes are not copied or sequenced”.

Therefore, the insinuation that the Singapore Police had “secretly” built a database of our DNA with nasal swabs is false.

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