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Far Enough?

DNA testing firms have created a lobbying group to help develop data privacy laws, but the Los Angeles Times' David Lazarus writes in his column that these efforts might yield laws that are not stringent enough.

The Hill reported last week that Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix formed the Coalition for Genetic Data Protection, run by Steve Haro from the lobbying firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, to influence the development of federal data privacy laws. Haro tells the LA Times' Lazarus that he wants to ensure that that is no carve-out in federal privacy law for genetic data, so that such data is treated like any other personal information.

Lazarus says, though, that some experts have told him that would be a mistake. David Agus from the University of Southern California and co-founder of Navigenics notes that genetic data is different as it also provides information about people's relatives. Additionally, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics' Mildred Cho tells him that genetic information should be handled like medical data and be subject to stricter controls.

"DNA-testing firms say you have nothing to worry about — they take people’s privacy really seriously," Lazarus writes.

"You know who also says that? Facebook," he adds. "And you trust them, right?"