Is DNA theft by genetic ‘paparazzi’ our next legal nightmare?

Every now and then stories genetic theft, or the extreme precautions taken to avoid it, make headlines. so it was with picture French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting in opposite ends of a very long table After Macron refused to take a Russian PCR COVID-19 a test. many forecast Macron rejected it due to security concerns that the Russians would take it and use it DNA for nefarious purposes. German Chancellor Olaf Schulz similarly refused To take a Russian COVID-19 PCR test.

While these concerns may sound relatively new, famous pop star Madonna has been ringing alarm bells about the possibility of collecting and testing non-sensory, cryptic DNA for more than a decade. she has Hired cleaning crews To sanitize her after-concert dressing rooms and require her own new toilet seats at each stop of her tours.

At first, Madonna made fun of her existence DNA paranoia. But as more advanced, faster, and cheaper genetic technologies reach the consumer world, these concerns not only seem reasonable, but justified.

we Law professors who study how to organize emerging technologies such as genetic sequencing. we believe this The increasing public interest in genetics has increased the possibility of this happening genetic photographers With DNA collection kits, they may be as ubiquitous as soon as those with cameras.

While the courts have mostly I managed to evade Dealing with the intricacies of stealth DNA collection and public persona testing, they won’t be able to avoid dealing with it for much longer. And when they do, they will run straight to Limitations of Existing Legal Frameworks When it comes to genetics.

Hidden genetic information

You are Leave your DNA behind Everywhere you go. The strands of hair, nails, dead skin, and saliva you shed as you go through your day are all traceable pathways of DNA.

Genetic analysis can reveal not only personal information, such as current health conditions or risks for certain diseases, but also basic aspects of a person’s identity, such as their ancestors and possible traits for their future children. In addition, as genetic technologies continue to evolve, there are concerns that genetic material collected surreptitiously will be used for reproductive purposes Across In vitro cell formation It became more than just paranoia.

Ultimately, taking an individual’s genetic material and information without their consent is considered an interference in the legal field that is still considered deep personality. Despite this, there few rules Protect the interests of individuals with respect to genetic material and information.

Existing legal frameworks

When controversies involving genetic theft from public figures inevitably reach the courtroom, judges will need to confront fundamental questions about how genes relate to personality, identity, property, health, disease, intellectual property, and reproductive rights. Such questions have already been raised in cases involving Using genetics in law enforcementThe Patents of DNA and property discarded genetic material.

In each of these cases, the courts focused on after only one Genetics, such as privacy rights or the value of genetic information for biomedical research. But this limited approach ignores Other aspectssuch as the privacy of family members with a shared genetic knowledge, or the property and identity interests that a person may have in genetic material that is discarded as part of a medical procedure.

In the case of genetic photographers, courts will likely attempt to put complex questions about genetics into the legal framework of privacy rights Because this is how they have dealt with other interferences in the lives of public figures in the past.

modern US privacy law It is a complex web of state and federal regulations that govern how information is obtained, accessed, stored, and used. The right to privacy is restricted by First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and the press, as well as the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. public figures They face further restrictions on their privacy rights because they are targets of the legitimate public interest. On the other hand, they also have publicity rights that control the commercial value of their unique personality traits.

People whose genetic material has been taken without their consent can also raise a Transfer Claim That their property was interfered with and lost. Courts in Florida are currently hearing a transfer suit in A private dispute The former CEO of Marvel Entertainment and his wife have accused a millionaire businessman of stealing their DNA to prove they were defaming it through a hate mail campaign. This approach replaces the narrow legal framework of privacy with a narrower framework of ownership, which reduces genes to an object that someone possesses.

What may the future hold?

Under current laws and the current state of genetic technology, most people do not need to worry about secret collection and use of genetic material the way public figures might. But genetic photographers’ cases are likely to play an important role in determining what rights they or no one else have.

It is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court of the United States would recognize new rights, or even confirm those previously recognized, i.e. rights recognized It is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution. Therefore, at least at the federal level, the means for individual protection of genetic material and information is unlikely to adapt to changing times.

This means that cases involving genetics are more likely to fall within the jurisdiction of state legislatures and courts. But none of the countries have wrestle enough With the complexities of genetic legal claims. Even in countries that have laws specifically designed to protect genetic privacy, the regulations cover only a A narrow range of genetic interests. Some laws, for example, may prohibit the disclosure of genetic information, but not its collection.

For better or worse, the way courts rule genetic photographers’ cases will shape how society thinks about genetic privacy and about individual rights in relation to genetics more broadly.

Lisa Vertinsky He is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland.

Yaniv Held Associate Professor of Law at Georgia State University.

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