DNA Theft: Recognizing the Crime of Nonconsensual Genetic Collection and Testing

- Boston University Law Review
Author/s: -Joh, Elizabeth E
Journal: Boston University Law Review
Year: 2011
Volume: 91
Pages: 665
Start Page: 665

The fact that you leave genetic information behind on discarded tissues,
used coffee cups, and smoked cigarettes everywhere you go is generally of
little consequence. Trouble arises, however, when third parties retrieve this
detritus of everyday life for the genetic information you have left behind.
These third parties may be the police, and the regulation over their ability to
collect this evidence is unclear.
The police are not the only people who are interested in your genetic
information. Curious fans, nosy third parties, and blackmailers may also hope
to gain information from the DNA of both public and private figures, and
collecting and analyzing this genetic information without consent is startlingly
easy to do. Committing DNA theft is as simple as sending in a used tissue to a
company contacted over the internet and waiting for an analysis by email. A
quick online search reveals many companies that offer “secret” or “discreet”
DNA testing. The rapid proliferation of companies offering direct-to-
consumer genetic testing at ever lower prices means that both the technology
and incentives to commit DNA theft exist.
Yet in nearly every American jurisdiction, DNA theft is not a crime. Rather,
the nonconsensual collection and analysis of another person’s DNA is virtually
unconstrained by law. This Article explains how DNA theft poses a serious
threat to genetic privacy and why it merits consideration as a distinct criminal

URL: http://www.bu.edu/law/central/jd/organizations/journals/bulr/documents/JOH.pdf