Genetic Privacy

World Privacy Forum files comments on behaviorally targeted ads online; requests separate rulemaking for sensitive medical information

Behaviorally targeted advertising | FTC proposed rules — The World Privacy Forum filed comments in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed self-regulatory guidelines for companies targeting online advertising to consumers based on consumer behaviors. The WPF requested a separate, formal rulemaking process for determining how sensitive medical information should be handled online regarding behaviorally targeted advertisements. The WPF also discussed genetic data and requests for genetic tests, and noted that genetic information should be included in any definition of sensitive medical information. The WPF reiterated that the definition of personally identifiable information should include IP address, and encouraged the FTC to work from a rights-based approach regarding online advertising. The WPF also urged the FTC to include all fair information practices in any self-regulatory regime, and to enforce the regime directly.

World Privacy Forum files public comments regarding oversight of genetic testing; warns about the privacy risks related to unregulated commercial genetic tests and the need to prevent phantom genetic tests from becoming a new business model for fraudsters

Genetic privacy | SACGHS — The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments with the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society (SACGHS) regarding its draft report on genetic testing oversight, U.S. System of Oversight of Genetic Testing: A Response to the Charge of the Secretary of HHS. The World Privacy Forum requested SACGHS pay more attention in its final report to the privacy consequences of unregulated genetic testing that occurs outside the health care sector. The WPF comments note that current and proposed remedies for the misuse of genetic information tend to focus on the use of the information within the health care treatment, payment, and insurance systems. What is crucially important is to analyze how to protect genetic information in the realm of commercial collection, maintenance, use and disclosures. Another area the comments discuss is the potential for new forms of fraudulent activity related to genetic testing (Phantom genetic testing, that is, genetic tests marketed to consumers that are not even real or viable genetic tests.) The World Privacy Forum specifically recommended that the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics be tasked with looking at this matter, that an independent pre-market assessment mechanism is created for genetic tests offered outside the clinical setting, and that privacy be expressly discussed in the overarching recommendations in the final report.

World Privacy Forum makes presentation at National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine

Genetic privacy — Executive director Pam Dixon presented key issues and potential solutions regarding privacy and Genome Wide Association Studies at the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Health Sciences Policy meeting. Her presentation included recommendations to engage in a comprehensive study of certificates of confidentiality, to encourage standards of identifiability, to encourage study of what more uniform standards of privacy and security for researchers might look like, and a recommendation to work toward broad solutions that extend beyond GWAS activities.

World Privacy Forum testifies on genetic privacy and consumer data marketing issues

Genetic privacy | SACGHS — The World Privacy Forum gave testimony to the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics Health and Society regarding privacy issues stemming from direct-to-consumer advertising and consumer-initiated genetic testing. The World Privacy Forum noted that a great deal of consumer health data circulates outside the protections of HIPAA, and a substantial market for this kind of consumer health data already exists. Genetic data about consumers that is acquired outside the clinical context and is not subject to the protections of HIPAA (for example, through consumer-initiated genetic testing) will likely not be any more protected than other forms of consumers’ health-related information from the current demands of the market. However, the consequences of leakage of genetic information about consumers into the marketing stream could have potentially negative consequences for both those consumers and their blood relatives. The World Privacy Forum urged the committee to include specific recommendations about privacy in its upcoming report to the Secretary, and also urged the committee to work with other federal agencies to set up a pre-market oversight structure that includes significant and meaningful privacy protections for genetic testing occurring outside of the protections of HIPAA.

World Privacy Forum comments about the ethical, legal, and social implications of using genetic health care data in electronic health records

Genetic Privacy — The World Privacy Forum filed public comments with the Department of Health and Human services in response to an HHS request for information regarding the use of patients’ genetic data for research, health care, and for use in electronic health records. The World Privacy Forum is requesting that HHS use all Fair Information Principles in any personalized health care projects, and is requesting that a formal ELSI (ethical, legal, and social implications) committee be set up to oversee any projects, among other requests.