Feature

Business columns: The latest high-tech threat to privacy

&ldquo;Abandoned DNA,&rdquo; the cellular material we leave behind on used tissues, hairbrushes, and even tableware is a growing source of identity theft, said Gail Javitt and Kathy Hudson in the<strong> </strong><em>L

Gail Javitt and Kathy HudsonLos Angeles Times

The specter of identity theft has led many of us to shred bills and other financial documents, said Gail Javitt and Kathy Hudson. But in other ways we’re still at great risk from “myriad assaults on the privacy of personal information.” Take the substance known as “abandoned DNA,” the cellular material we leave behind on used tissues, hairbrushes, even tableware. “These cells may seem to be mere human detritus, but our biological trash” is actually “a gold mine for information prospectors looking for clues to our health or ancestry.” Analysis of abandoned DNA is a growth industry, with laboratories around the country running tests for Alzheimer’s and breast cancer or promising worried husbands an answer to “the age-old question, Who’s the daddy?” There are few laws on the books to stop labs from testing our genetic material without our consent or selling the information to third parties, and even those laws “do not appear to have been enforced.” It’s time for the law to catch up with technology. “We should stake our claim to the DNA we shed before others do.”

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