Stuff.co.nz reports on the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner’s criticism of expanding uses for newborn DNA data taken to check for childhood diseases.
The DNA samples taken from a heel-prick test of babies born since the late 1960s is “banked” indefinitely as part of the National Screening Unit’s Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme.
Originally intended to check for childhood diseases, the samples have also been used in paternity cases and to identify crime victims.
But Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff has cautioned that the indefinite retention of heel-prick blood samples “presents risks for the programme’s participants and potentially the programme itself”.
In a submission to the Health Ministry, Ms Shroff said the “dizzying pace” of technology meant the blood samples could also be used in genetic screening for employment or criminal purposes.
The DNA derived from blood samples, like those in the collection, was the “ultimate marker of identity”, she said.
“The status quo, where a vast collection of blood samples is being held well beyond the expiry of the purpose for which it was collected, is not supportable.” […]
“There are also legitimate public concerns about the use of genetic screening for employment and criminal purposes, not to mention paternity.”