House passes ‘Protecting DNA Privacy Act’

DNA testing
Florida recently became the first state to protect DNA from an expanded list of insurers.

The House passed legislation to create criminal penalties for handling another person’s DNA data without their consent.

The “Protecting DNA Privacy Act” (HB 833), carried by Polk City Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow, received the House’s approval Thursday.

“Please help me protect our most vulnerable information and help me protect our DNA,” Tomkow asked members.

The proposal builds off a new Florida law expanding protections against some insurers who could potentially use people’s genetic information. Chris Sprowls, now the House Speaker, led the effort to turn that bill into law last year.

The measure 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.

During Wednesday’s floor session, Tomkow offered an amendment to the bill, which would create an exception to the crime if a person discloses another’s DNA after the owner of the DNA had previously published their DNA analysis results.

The law signed last year made Florida 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 Sprowls to push for expanded protections.

AncestryDNA and 23andMe, two leading DNA testing companies, have helped craft the legislation to codify what they call some of their “best practices” for preserving people’s genetic privacy.

On Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee signed off on the Senate version (SB 1140), carried by Estero Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues. The bill is slated for a hearing on Tuesday in the Senate Rules Committee, its final stop before that bill or the House version can appear on the Senate floor.

If it becomes law, the Protecting DNA Privacy Act would take effect in October.

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.

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Florida Politics reporter Haley Brown contributed to this report.

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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