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California Considers Criminalizing Unauthorized Collection, Use of Genetic Information

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – California lawmakers are considering a new proposal that would address concerns about keeping genetic information private by making it illegal to analyze, share, or store an individual's genetic information without that person's written consent.

The Senate Judiciary Committee in the state, which already has adopted enhanced public protections against discrimination based on genetic information, has now passed the California Genetic Information Privacy Act (SB 1267).

"As genetic testing becomes more accessible there is an increased risk of this information being used without consent," Alex Padilla, who introduced both the bill and last year's genetic discrimination bill, said in a statement. "No person should have their genetic material taken, tested, and given to others without written consent. All Californians should have these basic protections."

Currently, Padilla's office pointed out this week, there are no laws to prevent someone from collecting an individual's genetic material and information surreptitiously. This privacy bill would impose civil and criminal penalties for the collection, analysis, and storing of all genetic material and information without their consent.

"We have laws to protect the privacy of our financial information, our medical records, and even the books we check out from the local library," said Padilla. "We need genetic privacy protections because nothing is more personal than our DNA."

The genetic anti-discrimination bill that passed in California last year was created to buttress the national Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act by expanding protections against the misuse of genetic information to include housing, employment, education, health insurance, life insurance, mortgage lending, and other areas.

The genetic privacy bill will now move to the state's Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration, Padilla's office said yesterday.

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