Genetic Privacy Bill Clears Senate Committee

in News/Legislature

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A bill forbidding online ancestry websites from selling Wyoming customers’ DNA data is moving through Wyoming’s Legislature with little resistance.

House Bill 86 cleared the House unanimously and on Monday, it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 5-0.  

If it becomes law, the bill would strengthen Wyoming’s genetic data privacy laws by requiring companies like Ancestry.com and “23 and Me” to provide clear and complete privacy policies to the consumer.  

These policies would inform customers about how the data is used and stored. Companies would have to seek separate express consent from their clients to keep biological samples or to allow third parties to use the information for marketing, as with internet “cookies.”  

“Valid legal processes” also would be required for law enforcement to access genetic data.  

These privacy safeguards, said Ritchie Englehardt, would not be forfeited if an ancestry company sold, said Ritchie Englehardt, government affairs director for both Ancestry.com and “23 and Me.”  

He reiterated before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday what he had told the House Judiciary Committee two weeks prior: the companies he represents already have placed these rules in their systems, but the strengthening of the law can hold smaller startup companies to the same standard.  

In presenting the bill to the committee, Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said the bill’s mission is to ensure that “you cannot waive your right through the minutiae of confusing contracts.”  

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