Conceptual and Regulatory Challenges
Edited by Tjerk Timan, Bryce C. Newell and Bert-Jaap Koops
Chapter 9: Privacy in public spaces: the problem of out-of-body DNA
Any conception of privacy in public spaces must account for the practice of surreptitious DNA harvesting. Surreptitious DNA harvesting presents a set of privacy problems different than other privacy-intrusion practices. Shed DNA is out-of-body DNA containing a kaleidoscope of intimate, personal, and powerful information. Viewed through DNA’s connection to the body, out-of-body DNA begs for protection, even when left in a public space. Viewed as merely an abandoned body trace, shed DNA too often provokes a physically-bounded conception of privacy that dissolves any instinct for protection because the DNA is no longer part of the physical self or the physical identity. This chapter proposes a re-conception of bodily privacy in a public space that calls for privacy protection for the genetic self (the genetic identity), irrespective of its physical location.
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