‘Protecting DNA Privacy Act’ ready for House floor

Unlawful DNA collection or usage could be a felony under the bill.

Legislation to create criminal penalties for handling another person’s DNA data without their consent is on its way to the House floor.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday gave its unanimous approval to Polk City Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow‘s measure (HB 833) building off a new Florida law expanding protections against those who could potentially use people’s genetic information.

With an amendment approved during the meeting, she renamed the bill the “Protecting DNA Privacy Act.”

“This legislation is a first step to deter individuals and others who might steal DNA to gain access to your private information and then use it against you,” Tomkow told the committee.

The proposal would make submitting another person’s DNA sample for analysis or conducting the analysis a third degree felony. Disclosing another person’s DNA analysis to a third party would also be a third degree felony. Collecting or retaining another person’s DNA sample with the intent to perform a DNA analysis would be a first degree misdemeanor.

Third degree felonies carry punishments of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine and first degree misdemeanors carry punishments of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

On Monday in the Senate Commerce Committee, which approved Estero Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues‘ companion bill (SB 1140), Ancestry’s government affairs director, Ritchie Engelhardt, shed some light for the committee on what his company’s DNA sampling process is like. He also spoke on behalf of the Coalition for Genetic Data Protection, made up of Ancestry and 23andMe.

On Wednesday, he told the House panel he could return to Tallahassee next Session to share other privacy proposals his team has.

Tomkow and Rodrigues’ legislation would take effect in October if it becomes law.

Florida last year became the first state to prevent life, disability and longterm care insurance providers from using DNA analyses for making coverage decisions without consent. The rising popularity of DNA testing kits spurred lawmakers to expand protections.

That law’s main driver, Chris Sprowls, is now the House Speaker. And Rodrigues, a freshman Senator, helped pass that legislation as one of Sprowls’ colleagues last year.

State and federal law already prevented health insurance providers from demanding customers hand over the results of their DNA tests from companies like 23andMe or AncestryDNA. But last year’s law added life, disability and longterm care insurance providers to Florida’s list.

Insurers have noted that information gleaned from genetic testing, such as a person’s medical predispositions, could be used to lower insurance premiums across the board. But while insurance companies aren’t yet using that data, that would punish genetic losers who could see a premium hike, lawmakers said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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