Centro de Estudos Sociais
Colégio da Graça
Rua da Sofia 136
3000-389 Coimbra

Directions with Google Maps

correspondence address

Colégio da Graça
Rua da Sofia
Apartado 3087
3000-995 Coimbra


What is the Prüm Treaty?


The Prüm Treaty was signed in 2005 by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain in the town of Prüm, Germany, and was subsequently adopted into European Union Law (Decisions 2008/615/JHA and 2008/616/JHA). The Decisions establish the automated exchange of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data (VRD) amongst EU Member States for the purpose of fighting crime and terrorism. They also allow the exchange of personal data for the prevention of terrorist offences and joint police operations.

When will the Prüm Decisions be implemented?


26 August 2011 marked the date by which all EU Member State should have implemented the legal and technical changes required by the Decisions. Almost all Member States have started exchanging DNA data. However, as of March 2016, Denmark, Greece, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, and the United Kingdom are still not fully operational in the Prüm DNA system.

Is DNA data only shared between EU Member States under Prüm?


Currently, yes, although some non-EU countries, namely Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, are also interested in sharing DNA data.

How do countries exchange DNA profiles?


National DNA databases store profiles from individuals or crime scene stains. Then, these profiles are compared with DNA databases from other countries to check for matches that might be relevant for criminal investigation purposes. Since 2008, EU Member States are required to set up DNA databases and implement the necessary legal and technical measures to share their profiles with all partner countries.

Does each Member State have its own database?


EU law expressly requests that Member States open and keep national DNA files available for research purposes on criminal offenses and provide intercommunicability of domestic databases collecting DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data.

What is a DNA database?


Small, highly variable parts of the DNA structure can be translated into a numerical code – a DNA profile – making it possible for organic samples to be transformed into a set of numbers and stored in a database. A forensic DNA database is a computerised collection of DNA profiles derived from samples (e.g. from blood, semen, saliva or hair roots) collected at a crime scene or directly from individuals, and corresponding files with personal data. Matching profiles can create a connection between a person and a crime.

Is a DNA match an infallible evidence?


Forensic DNA databases are intended as a tool for fighting crime, allowing criminal investigators to identify, confirm or discard a suspect offender. As such, DNA evidence also serves to exonerate innocent suspects. However, it is necessary to point out that any match needs being contextualised with other evidence. Furthermore, when a match is obtained through a database search, there is always the chance of false positives or false negatives. Therefore, laws in many countries do not allow convictions based solely on DNA evidence.

What are the ethical and privacy issues related with DNA exchange?


Ethical and privacy issues raised by DNA profiling and databasing have been framed around questions related to privacy, autonomy, informed consent, equality and presumption of innocence. For example, Member States have different inclusion and retention criteria for DNA profiles in their databases – some databases have profiles of minors and persons that were not convicted – which raises issues of equality and presumption of innocence.

Does EXCHANGE support any change to the Prüm system?


No. EXCHANGE departs from a non-normative approach. This means that we are not trying to say that there are ‘better’ or ‘worse’ models. Our focus is to empirically study the cultural, political and social implications of using scientific tools – such as DNA technologies and informatics databases – for combating crime.

What concepts and theories does the project apply?


EXCHANGE builds on the knowledge repertoire provided by the social studies of science and technology in general and on their applications in the field of forensic genetics in particular. Hence, the project adopts a ‘grounded theory’ approach. That is, an approach aiming to identify and generate new concepts resulting from observing and understanding the empirical reality. In an iterative process of empirical analysis and continuous critical reflection, the research team produces findings with stable interpretations.


* required fields