Blackrock’s Purchase of Ancestry.com Doesn’t Mean They Can Be Sued for Obtaining Illinoisans’ Genetic Info
A federal appeals panel has determined investment giant Blackstone can’t be sued under an Illinois genetic information law over allegations of improperly accessing data without consent solely because it acquired Ancestry.com.
Blackstone reportedly spent $4.7 billion to purchase the popular genealogy website in December 2020. The following July, plaintiffs Carolyn Bridges and Raymond Cunningham filed a class action complaint, alleging Blackstone violated the Genetic Information Privacy Act. Blackstone removed the complaint to federal court the Southern District of Illinois, where U.S. District Judge David Dugan dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim.
The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on the matter May 1. Judge David Hamilton wrote the opinion; Judges Michael Scudder and Doris Pryor concurred.
According to the panel, Illinois lawmakers enacted GIPA in 1998 to regulate genetic testing data in commercial and medical settings. It said the operative clause for purposes of the class action is a provision that no person or company “may disclose or be compelled to disclose the identity of any person upon whom a genetic test is performed or the results of a genetic test in a manner that permits identification of the subject of the test.”
The plaintiffs based their allegations on the saliva sample genetic sequencing kits purchased from Ancestry before the Blackstone acquisition. They said Ancestry paired their tests with personal information, like email and home addresses, and alleged Blackstone’s control acquisition purchase compelled Ancestry to disclose that protected information.
Hamilton said Judge Dugan’s dismissal stemmed from a determination the complaint lacked adequate allegations of compulsory disclosure and, even if he had decided there was such a disclosure, the complaint didn’t overcome the company’s position the data in question was anonymized.
You can read more in an article by Scott Holland published in the Cook County Record web site at: https://tinyurl.com/4f4nrbjb.