Privacy Priorities - page 41

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assess whether the collection and use of
this information by insurers is necessary
and whether a reasonable person would
consider the collection and use appropriate
in the circumstances.
To further public education about the
predictive nature of genetics, we posted on
our website a Q&A with University of Toronto
professor of medicine Dr. Steve Scherer,
director of the Centre for Applied Genomics
at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Genetics and
Law Enforcement
A particularly active area for our Office
over the past few years has been the
expanding use of genetic information
by law enforcement agencies.
In Canada, the National DNA Data Bank was
created in 2000, originally for the cataloguing
of DNA from crime scenes and the DNA of
anyone convicted of 37 very serious violent
or sexual offences. However, the list of such
“designated offences” has expanded to more
than 265, greatly increasing the number of
citizens whose supreme identifier is now on
file with the RCMP.
We are an ex-officio member of the advisory
committee for the National DNA Data Bank
advisory committee, where we participate in
overseeing the bank.
We commissioned research to compare
the legal framework that regulates the
banking of forensic DNA data in Canada
with the United Kingdom, Australia, the
Netherlands, the federal U.S. system and
the states of California, Maryland and
New York. The study found that, overall,
Canadian data banking laws are either equally
or more restrictive than the rules in those
other jurisdictions.
In addition, the OPC has regularly
commented on privacy issues related to the
use of DNA for forensic purposes in speeches,
as a member of the National DNA Data
Bank advisory committee and in making
submissions when Parliament carried out
scheduled reviews of the enabling legislation.
There have been proposals to further expand
the use of the National DNA Data Bank by
allowing “familial” searching.
Suppose, for example, that police have a
human DNA sample from the scene of a
crime. A search through the National DNA
Data Bank doesn’t find an exact match.
So, instead police search for a near match,
meaning a close blood relative likely to have a
similar genetic profile.
From a privacy perspective, familial searching
is troubling because it turns people into
potential suspects not because of what
they have done but simply because of their
family relations.
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