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IPNY: Andelka Phillips on Buying your Genetic Self Online

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Furman Hall

245 Sullivan Street

Room 120

New York, NY 10012

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The IPNY series allows the larger Engelberg Center community to come together in evening events to discuss cutting-edge issues in innovation law and policy. This evening will feature a presentation from Andelka Phillips, Senior Lecturer at Te Piringa, Faculty of Law, the University of Waikato in New Zealand and Research Associate at the University of Oxford's Centre for Health, Law, and Emerging Technologies, UK.

Professor Phillips will discuss her forthcoming book Buying Your Self on the Internet: Wrap Contracts and Personal Genomics. Professor Phillips' presentation will be followed by a Q&A and a brief reception.

IPNY events are free and open to the public. This event has been approved for 1.5 hours of NY State CLE credit in Areas of Professional Practice.

Presentation Summary

Dr Phillips will discuss her ongoing research on the direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC) industry, drawing upon her book, Buying Your Self on the Internet: Wrap Contracts and Personal Genomics, which will be published in July 2019 by Edinburgh University Press, as part of their Future Law series.

The DTC industry has developed over the last two decades. It has created a market for DNA tests as consumer services, bringing them outside the clinic and into the domestic space. Individuals in this space can now be viewed as consumers, rather than patients and these services pose challenges for existing regulation. Genetic data is also sensitive data. It can serve as a unique identifier for individuals, it can also be used to trace family members, and it can be used for a wide range of secondary research purposes, meaning that there are significant privacy risks to consider in this context.

The industry offers tests for diverse purposes. These range from tests for health conditions to the increasingly popular category of ancestry testing, as well as tests for genetic relatedness (most commonly paternity), as well as more dubious tests for child talent and ‘infidelity’ or matchmaking.

This lecture will provide an introduction to the DTC industry and the issues these services raise for law and society more generally. This will include an overview of the variety of tests available, discussion of the contracts used by DTC companies, as well as the privacy issues these services raise.

The book uses the example of DTC genetic testing companies using wrap contracts as their dominant means of governance to show the challenges that disruptive technologies pose for societies and for regulation. The book:

  • Provides an overview of the different types of tests available and the issues raised by each type of test, including discussion of consumer protection and privacy issues in this context
  • Provides a summary of a review of 71 wrap contracts used by DTC companies providing tests for health purposes, suggesting that a number of terms commonly included are challengeable on the basis of unfairness.
  • Explores broader issues with online contracting
  • Sets an agenda for improving regulation and the online contracting environment

About Andekla Phillips

Dr Phillips is a Senior Lecturer at Te Piringa Faculty of Law, University of Waikato and a Research Associate with the University of Oxford's Centre for Health, Law and Emerging Technologies (HeLEX).

Her recent research has focused on the regulation of direct-to-consumer genetic tests, examining the industry's use of wrap contracts (browsewrap and clickwrap). This is the subject of her forthcoming book entitled Buying Your Self on the Internet: Wrap Contracts and Personal Genomics, which will Edinburgh University Press as part of its Future Law series in July 2019. She is also co-editing with Professor Jonathan Herring and Dr Thana C de Campos Philosophical Foundations of Medical Law, which will be published as part of Oxford University Press' Philosophical Foundations of Law series in November 2019.

Andelka was formerly the Ussher Assistant Professor in Information Technology Law and the Convenor of the Technology, Law and Society Research Group in the Law School at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin. She has also taught at the University of Oxford and the University of Auckland.

She completed her doctoral degree at University of Oxford. While at Oxford, she was the General Editor of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal and also convened the Oxford Medical Law and Ethics Discussion Group and the Oxford Privacy Information Law and Society Discussion Group.


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Furman Hall

245 Sullivan Street

Room 120

New York, NY 10012

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