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BBB Tip of the Week: Compare price, performance when choosing an at-home DNA testing kits

By Kirstin Davis Marketplace Director

DNA testing now can be done right at home at an affordable price. Are you curious about your heritage or wondering if you are susceptible to certain diseases with your genetic makeup? It’s easier than ever to find out this information. It’s also big business.

Although most tests require just a swab of the cheek, that tiny sample can disclose the biological information about you. The data can be very enlightening personally, but consumers should be concerned about who else could have access to information about your heritage and your health. If you’re thinking about buying an at-home DNA test kit, it is important to investigate the options thoroughly.

The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips when considering an at-home DNA kit:

Comparison shop about privacy. A number of companies offer similar services, but price and performance are only two of the comparisons you should make before a purchase. The other key comparison is privacy. Scrutinize each company’s website for details about what it does 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.

Recognize the risks. Hacks happen. Before deciding to use a DNA test kit, reflect on your personal approach to the risk of unauthorized access that accompanies the use of any online service that maintains sensitive information about you.

Report your concerns. If you think a genetic testing company isn’t living up to its promises, let the FTC know.

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