"In general the idea is anything you intentionally relinquish to the public, to scavengers, in the garbage, is free for anyone," said Elizabeth Joh, professor of law at the University of California Davis.
This is true for your hard drive, your diary, your credit card statements-and it's true for your DNA, regardless of whether you realize you're casting it aside.
Legal scholars call this material "abandoned DNA," and Joh
is one of a handful of thinkers saying it's time the law reckoned with what rights we have to this trove of extremely personal information.
is one of the few scholars working on the issue.
argued in the Boston University
Law Review in 2011 that sequencing someone else's genome without consent should be classified as felony theft-a charge whose seriousness would help establish social and legal norms recognizing DNA as an exceptional kind of property.
thinks that a first step in encouraging courts and legislatures to grant greater protection against unauthorized DNA analysis is to stop calling the genetic material "abandoned" in the first place.
"People think, well, if it's abandoned, why should I worry about it?
proposes the more provocative label of "DNA theft."