DNA is private information and is protected by privacy laws – according to a recent American Appeal Court decision

Source: http://make-family-tree.com

DNA is considered private data and its retention is protected by some of the privacy and data protection laws

I found a very interesting piece of information on Proskauer privacylaw blog regarding a recent decision of the Massachusettes Appeal Court, which found that police cannot keep DNA samples beyond the limitations promised to an individual.

The decision was given in Amato v. District Attorney on 25 August.

The case arose out of the voluntary collection of plaintiff’s DNA in connection with a 2002 murder investigation. The plaintiff challenged the crime lab’s retention of private individuals’ DNA samples despite representations that any samples and related records “would be destroyed and would not become part of any State or Federal database” if they did not match DNA evidence taken at the crime scene. According to the plaintiff, notwithstanding the successful prosecution of the man responsible for the murder, the state’s crime lab refused to destroy his and other DNA samples in its possession despite his repeated requests.

The trial court dismissed the charges. But the Appeal Court found that police was in breach of privacy law, in particular the state’s Fair Information Practices Act.

“[g]iven the circumstances under which the defendants induced [the plaintiff] and the others to allow access to this intensely private information [i.e., their DNA], including the promises of limited use and retention and the concomitantly restricted scope of consent granted, we are not convinced that the defendants have acted reasonably as matter of law.”

The Court also found that: retention of highly sensitive DNA records without consent and making them available for nonconsensual use in other criminal investigations are sufficient to constitute an unreasonable, substantial, and serious interference with an individual’s privacy.

  • You can find the whole decision HERE
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