The business of personal genetic-testing kits is booming, with consumers able to learn about their ancestry and health risks at the cost of just a few hundred dollars. But should you be concerned about your privacy after taking one of the tests? The Better Business Bureau want consumers to be aware of the information they give up when sending in their kit.
“We have noticed an increasing number of people becoming interested in genetic testing,” says 23andMe spokeswoman Liza Crenshaw. “Consumers are interested in discovering a range of information about themselves, from learning more of their background and where their ancestors came from, to identifying lost relatives or learning more about their health.”
More than 26 million people have shared their DNA with one of the four leading ancestry and health databases, allowing researchers to extrapolate data on many Americans. But it also raises some serious privacy concerns, according to the MIT Technology Review.
“The consequences for privacy go well beyond that,” the MIT Technology Review states. “As these databases grow, they have made it possible to trace the relationships between nearly all Americans, including those who never purchased a test.”
Police have used DNA testing to find rapists and other criminals. Family Tree DNA recently changed its policy and allowed the FBI to upload DNA samples from crime scenes, according to the MIT publication. Which has helped solve some crimes.
The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips when considering an at-home DNA kit:
Comparison shop about privacy. Several companies offer similar services, but price and performance are only two of the factors to compare before making a purchase. The other key factor is privacy. Scrutinize each company’s website for details about what they do with your personal data. Rather than just clicking “I accept,” take the time to understand how your health, genetic and other sensitive information will be used and shared. Hold off on buying a kit until you have a clear picture of the company’s practices.
Choose your account options carefully. Most testing companies offer an array of options about how public — or how protected — users want to keep their personal information. Will your profile be available to others online? Can users send you personal messages? A company’s out-of-the-box defaults often aren’t the most private options, so it’s unwise simply to accept a site’s automatic settings. A more prudent approach to consider is to select more protective options initially and revisit your choices once you’ve become familiar with how the site operates.