SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday approved SB 222 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). The bill would establish the California Genetic Information Privacy Act, which would prohibit the unauthorized collection, analysis, transfer or storage of an individual’s genetic information. The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
“Presently there is nothing to prevent someone from collecting your DNA, sending it to a lab, having it analyzed and then sharing it with others. We need genetic privacy protections because nothing is more personal than our DNA,” said Senator Padilla. “Unauthorized DNA testing is the ultimate invasion of privacy,” Padilla added.
A firm in Elk Grove, California, EasyDNA offers “Discreet DNA Testing” and instructs customers to collect DNA samples from a person who “needs” to be tested. They suggest submitting tampons, band aids, floss and other items for testing.
The website for Easy DNA includes the following statement:
“Sometimes it is not possible to directly obtain samples from the person who needs to be tested. In this case, discreet samples can be submitted instead. Samples that can be used include strands of hair, blood, clothing, cigarette butts and other items that may contain traces of DNA. For more information visit our Discreet DNA Testing services section.” http://www.easy-dna.com/forensic-dna-test.html
A 2012 report by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues found that “commercial genetic testing has opened a new loophole in privacy protections,” and “the potential consequences of unauthorized surreptitious testing could be profound.”
Indeed, analysis of genetic material can allow for early detection of disease long before symptoms become apparent. Genetic markers can also suggest a propensity for diseases that may or may not ever develop. Genetic analysis makes it possible to discover the private health information of an individual and that individual’s relatives. This information can be used to harm people.
“We have laws to protect the privacy of our financial information, our medical records, and even the books we check out from our local library. SB 222 would extend California privacy protections to a person’s genetic material and information,” said Senator Padilla. “Advances in genomic research and individual privacy must go hand-in-hand. No person should have their genetic material collected, tested or given to others without authorization. Every Californian deserves these basic protections,” Padilla added.
“I strongly support and believe in the promise of genomic research to improve public health and our quality of life. I also believe that stronger privacy protections should be in place to guard against the unauthorized access and illegitimate use of genetic material and information,” said Senator Alex Padilla.
To date, 30 states have passed laws that provide some form of protections for the unauthorized collection, analysis or disclosure of an individual’s genetic information and 11 states have protections for all three.
Senator Alex Padilla, 40, graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He currently serves on the Board of MIT and is President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He is Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and represents the more than 1,100,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District in Los Angeles.