IBM, the world’s largest computer maker, pledged Monday not to use genetic data to screen employees and applicants in what it said was the first such move by a major corporation to safeguard a new category of privacy.
The pledge comes as Congress debates a proposed privacy bill that would bar health insurers and employers from discriminating against people with a genetic predisposition to disease.
“Genetic information comes pretty close to the essence of who you are, it’s something you can’t change,” IBM’s chief privacy officer, Harriet Pearson, told Reuters.
“It has nothing to do with your employment, how good your contributions are, how good of a team member you are, so making a policy statement in this case is the right thing to do,” she said.
IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., employs more than 300,000 people worldwide.
The Genetic Alliance, a Washington-based patients advocacy group, called IBM’s policy “remarkable” and predicted it would spur other U.S. corporations to follow suit.
IBM shares rose 75 cents, or nearly 1 percent, to $81.25 trading Monday after Citigroup upgraded its rating on the company to “buy” from “hold.” IBM’s share price has dropped more than 17 percent this year.