You would think you own your DNA, right? That seems intuitive enough. As I learned in my conversation with Jessica Roberts – Professor of Law and Director of the Health Law & Policy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center – intuition has nothing to do with the law on this. In fact, who owns your DNA and the data in it is far more complicated.
While legal thinking and public policy are evolving on the idea of someone owning their DNA and genetic data in the same way they might own a house or a car, it certainly has not always been that way. It was not until a case earlier this decade that a court even allowed a conversion claim – that is, a claim that an individual’s property rights – on a genetic data civil case to go forward. By the way, the details of that case read like a bad knockoff of a James Bond novel. You can hear Professor Roberts explain it in the podcast or read about it here.
We also go in-depth on how much of your rights to your DNA and genetic data you relinquish when you take one of those genetic ancestry tests like AncestryDNA or 23 And Me. That’s where the issues of “Do I own my DNA?” and “What can I do if a company I gave my DNA to does something with my genetic data or shares my genetic data with someone else, and I don’t agree with what the company did?” get hairy. You will have to listen to the podcast about how that works. No spoilers here.
You can learn more about Professor Jessica Roberts on her University of Houston Law Center faculty page. You can also find Professor Roberts’ published works here and follow her on Twitter @jrobertsuhlc.
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