Navigenics And 23andMe Commit To Fight Unreasonable Subpoenas

I learned something very interesting in preparing for last evening’s panel (PDF) on consumer genomics we recently co-sponsored with the Center for Law and the Biosciences. It turns out that at least one industry leader – Navigenics – has committed in writing to resisting court orders, subpoenas, and other requests for information about their customers. Specifically, Navigenics promises in its privacy policy that the company “will use reasonable and lawful efforts to limit the scope of any such legally required disclosure.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a commitment to push back against third-party requests in a public legal document before. And the 23andMe panelist's commitment, though oral, was at least as strong.

The issue of whether civil litigants or the U.S. (or a foreign) government might access consumer genetic profiles through legal process is a salient one. As Stanford Law professor (and panel moderator) Hank Greely pointed out, law enforcement has already begun to track down suspects through relatives. 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki and Navigenics general counsel Stephen Moore – along with Wired journalist Alexis Madrigal, the three panelists – indicated that they were still too small at this stage to receive many subpoenas. But they acknowledged the possibility of future third-party legal requests.

I complimented Moore on Navigenics' commitment to try to limit the scope of lawful requests for consumer information and asked Wojcicki why 23andMe – whose privacy policy is similar to that of Navigenics in most other respects – didn’t do the same. To her serious credit, Wojcicki responded by affirming the primacy of customer privacy and opining that a company should be willing to “go bankrupt” defending unreasonable subpoenas. This is one of the strongest statements I’ve heard regarding customer rights since Digg founder Kevin Ross’ vowed that Digg would “go down fighting [rather] than bow down to a bigger company.” (Ross added: “If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.”)

You will eventually be able to hear a recording of the entire consumer genomics panel here.

Comments

Ryan, thanks for the interesting post. Am looking forward to hearing the audio whenever you get it up... could you do a brief post when it does go up?
With appreciation,

Thanks for your note. I will try to post an update.

Ryan

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a commitment to push back against third-party requests in a public legal document before

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