The Knesset passed in a preliminary reading Wednesday a law that would substantially strengthen security of information about Israelis in genetic databases. The law was proposed by MK Meir Sheetrit.
Pressure for better security of sensitive genetic information has been growing as the government prepares to implement the biometric identification program. A pilot biometric program was initiated in several cities in Israel this week, and according to the Biometric Database Law passed in 2009, all Israelis will be required to submit fingerprints and faceprints to the government within two years.
Passage of the law launched a major debate in Israel on the security of biometric and other sensitive data, including genetic data. A law protecting such data was passed several years ago, but critics have complained that it is not strong enough. The new law will require holders of genetic data to implement stronger defenses in order to protect it.
Among the requirements of the adjusted law: the designation of specific criteria on who is eligible to take DNA samples from patients; limitations on the use of DNA information in academic or other research; regulations for taking DNA samples from mothers of newborns; restrictions on using genetic information when making decisions about admission to educational institutions or defense units; and criminal penalties for misuse of DNA information.
Fifty eight MKs voted in favor of the bill on its preliminary reading. There were no votes against. The law will now be sent to the Knesset Control Committee in order to prepare it for its first reading.