The UK government will delete DNA profiles of 850,000 innocent people from its DNA database, but civil liberties groups said revised data retention measures do not go far enough.
In a U-turn on previous data retention policy, the Home Office will begin the lengthy process of deleting the DNA records of all 850,000 people on the database who have not been arrested for or convicted of a crime.
But the DNA profiles for those arrested but not convicted over minor offences will see their data held for six years, or 12 years in cases of serious violent or sexual crimes. The database currently holds files on 4.5 million people.
The government has been forced to climb down following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that stated keeping the data of those acquitted — but never charged — breached human rights.
But civil liberties campaigners said the move did not go far enough. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said it was a "well-spun proposal" and that human rights groups would take the government to court.
"Wholly innocent people — including children — will have their most intimate details stockpiled for years on a database that will remain massively out of step with the rest of the world," she said. "With regret we shall be forced to see her in court once more."
Home secretary Jacqui Smith defended the retention of DNA data, saying it had helped solve 390,000 crimes between 1998 and 2008. But she added: "These new proposals will ensure that the right people are on it, as well as considering where people should come off."