September 18, 2012 | By Rebecca Jeschke

Wednesday Hearing in 9th Circuit Tackles DNA Privacy

Wednesday at 10 am, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral argument in Haskell v. Harris, examining crucial questions of DNA privacy.  If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is a unique opportunity to hear debate over how your genetic information can be collected, stored, and shared by law enforcement.

California state law mandates DNA collection from anyone who is arrested for felony, whether or not they are eventually charged or convicted of a crime.  That DNA is stored in a database accessible to law enforcement across the country and even around the world.  The government has argued that the genetic markers that make up a person’s DNA profile are “junk” and provide no more information than a person’s fingerprint.  However, new research has shown that so-called “junk” DNA actually plays a critical role in controlling how our cells, tissue and organs behave.  As we explained last week, that means that when the government collects DNA, it has information that could reveal an extraordinary amount of private information, including familial relationships, medical history, predisposition for disease, and possibly even behavioral tendencies and sexual orientation.

In this case, Haskell v. Harris, the ACLU of Northern California is challenging the California law, arguing that it violates constitutional guarantees of privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.  This is the first court hearing to address DNA privacy since the research on “junk” DNA has become widely known, and in its role as amicus, EFF asked the court to consider the ground-breaking new research.  The oral argument is open to the public at the federal courthouse at 95 7th Street in San Francisco.  The hearing starts at 10am, in courtroom 1 on the third floor.


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