1. Opinion

Home DNA kits, not insurers, are the real privacy risk

Here’s what readers are saying in Wednesday’s letters to the editor
Workers at Spectrum Solutions in Draper, Utah, process DNA spit kits before they are sent to customers of
Workers at Spectrum Solutions in Draper, Utah, process DNA spit kits before they are sent to customers of
Published Jan. 28

The real privacy risks are DNA kits

Insurers want your genetic info | Jan. 13

As at-home genetic testing kits grow in popularity, some lawmakers in Florida are raising important concerns about the privacy risks facing consumers. But the bill recently brought forward by Rep. Chris Sprowls — a proposal that met significant pushback in the Senate last year — would fail to hold the companies that sell these tests accountable, and worse, let government tell Floridians what they can and cannot do with their own genetic code. Sprowls’ proposal attempts to prevent a hypothetical future in which life, long-term care or disability insurers — all strictly regulated — somehow access genetic information without a person’s consent. Sprowls says “it is conceivable” that the alternate reality he sets up could come true and asks people to “imagine” what it would be like. He invents a scenario — “albeit extreme,” in his words — where certain types of insurance are only available to a genetic superclass. This is the stuff of science fiction, not the basis of a policy that could disrupt the life, long-term care and disability insurance markets and affect millions of Floridians.

Lawmakers should focus on the real threat consumers face, as direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies operate in a Wild West environment. Instead of trying to thwart an imagined future by making a preemptive strike on insurers, Florida should set clear rules for these companies.

Lawmakers should develop a solution that actually addresses the root problem: Many at-home genetic testing companies are roping consumers into exploitative agreements they do not understand and then sharing their private information far and wide.

Wanda Grubbs Schwerer, Belleair Bluffs

A development fight

East Lake fights Tarpon annexation | Jan. 27

Residents in East Lake have erected signs protesting a 44-home development proposed by Tarpon Springs developer Pioneer Homes. [Courtesy of Marc Washburn]

Tarpon Springs and Pinellas County officials should oppose any annexations of East Lake and Lake Tarpon areas for development. These areas should remain rural and natural. There is a greater benefit to the environment and the culture of our county by leaving these properties zoned agricultural and low density. The annexation plan proposed by Pioneer Homes would greatly add to suburban sprawl, which has already been detrimental to the character of Tarpon Springs, once a scenic small town surrounded by rural areas and wilderness. It will further isolate the wildlife at Brooker Creek Preserve, and endanger wildlife with heavy automobile traffic. What Pioneer Homes is achieving in short-term profit for its owners will come at a severe cost to everyone else. The loss of our rural areas, our wilderness and the character of our communities is irreplaceable.

Joseph Weinzettle, Tarpon Springs

Senators unswayed

Senate must hear Bolton | Column, Jan. 28

Former National security adviser John Bolton leaves his home in Bethesda, Maryland. [LUIS M. ALVAREZ | AP]

Does anyone believe that John Bolton’s testimony would sway enough Republican senators? Many don’t believe the president committed an impeachable offense even if the accusation turns out to be true. It’s time for the Republicans to high-five. This one’s over.

Hal Batey, St. Petersburg

Looking for a witness

At least one important witness is absent from the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. Not John Bolton. The missing witness is someone who would call upon the senators who sit in judgment of the president to reflect upon his background as a person, businessman and politician, and ask themselves: Is Donald Trump capable of this wrongdoing? Or is he simply incapable of such treachery? Does such a credible character witness exist anywhere?

Fred Kalhammer, Sun City Center


  1. Florida has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  2. Our democracy is under unprecedented attack from overseas, but the federal government has been unable or unwilling to protect our campaign-finance system.
  3. Cars sit locked in evening rush hour traffic on Dale Mabry near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Commission will discuss Wednesday whether to prepare a transportation tax for the November ballot now that the fate of the current tax rests with the Florida Supreme Court. [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times] 
  4. In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, file photo, Tiffany Carr, executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, speaks at a news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush, background right, to announce a public awareness campaign designed to prevent disaster-related domestic violence, in Tallahassee, Fla. On Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO, Carr, had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File)
  5. Paula Dockery of Lakeland served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years.
  6. The United States' life expectancy has gone down four out of the last five years largely because of deaths in the 25-64 age range.
  7. Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
  8. In this image from video, the vote total, 53-47 for not guilty, on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of congress, is displayed on screen during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate.
  9. Nurse manager Amy Hunt holds the special stethoscope that allows nurses at Tampa General Hospital to record a heartbeat while they listen to it during a routine exam.
  10. Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. Workers are preparing to mail 260,000 vote by mail kits for the November General Election.