Brittany Bell ’18 investigates what companies may know about your DNA
LONG BEFORE FACEBOOK was making headlines for its unauthorized use of data, Brittany Bell ’18, who joins Schulte Roth & Zabel as an associate this fall, was digging into how companies collect and use personal genetic information, for her independent research project at Brooklyn Law School.
“[My interest] started when I was talking to Professor Alex Stein [who was recently named a justice on the Israeli Supreme Court] about HIPAA—the way it determines how and when companies and doctors can turn over or sell our health records,” Bell told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “Around the same time, a friend was talking about her Fitbit and it started to concern me that Fitbit wouldn’t be an entity covered under HIPAA.”
Bell discovered that genetic information collected by companies such as Ancestry.com and Fitbit isn’t protected in the same way as medical records under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). In examining existing privacy laws, she was shocked to learn that very few laws are in place to regulate these new technologies, despite the real dangers of such data being sold to third parties, turned over to investigators, or hacked.
“You can change your hobbies, you can even change your hair color, but you cannot change your DNA,” she pointed out. Bell plans to use her research to raise awareness of the issue and urge consumers to call for greater regulation.