State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger's Island) recently pre-filed legislation to protect the personal and genetic data of Alabamians who provide DNA samples to companies in return for information on their ancestry, ethnicity, family health genetics, and other areas.

The "Alabama Genetic Data Privacy Act" would restrict how genetic testing companies and contractors collect and disseminate data from those submitting DNA samples for various reasons.

Privacy has become a concern for those utilizing genetic testing in recent years.

Despite interim guidelines from the Department of Justice, DNA samples collected by testing companies have been made available to law enforcement in the past, who have used the data to make arrests, whether through direct evidence or through the construction of a genetic "family tree" that allows police to eventually identify a criminal suspect. Often, those who submitted a sample were not aware their data would be used to such ends. Some genetic genealogists even exploited loopholes to collect data on participants who opted out of sharing their data with law enforcement.

Brown's bill would prohibit the disclosure of consumer data to a governmental agency without express consumer consent in the absence of a search warrant, subpoena or court order. Companies would also be required to honor a consumer's request to access the consumer's data, delete account information, destroy the sample and data, or revoke any previous consent concerning the use or transfer of the sample or data.

It would also require companies to obtain the consumer's express consent to use and store the sample and data to fulfill the consumer's order. They would also have to receive the consumer's express acknowledgment that the sample and data may be handled by other entities, including any third-party contractor, and that the consumer may be asked in the future to disclose or transfer the consumer's sample or data to a third party.

The 2024 legislative session is slated to begin in February. If passed, Brown's bill would go into effect in October 2024.

The Consumer Division of the Attorney General's Office would be authorized to enforce a violation of the act in circuit court by injunction of imposition of a civil penalty of up to $3,000.

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