What to know about home DNA testing kits

(WTTV/WXIN) — As home DNA testing kits gain more popularity, more people are turning to the technology to learn more about their family connections and genetic background.

You or someone you know may have even received a DNA testing kit as a gift over the holidays. While the kits can shed new light on where you came from, and potential health issues to lookout for, there are some precautions to keep in mind regarding privacy and safety.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends you remember these three things:

1. Take a close look at the company’s privacy policies and promises. One tiny swab contains a lot of highly sensitive information about you. The FTC says you need to check out the company’s website and see what it says about privacy practices. Do they share any user information with other companies? Do they offer dashboards, or other tools where you can select options that offer even more privacy? Can you delete your information if you want to?

2. Help the recipient navigate privacy choices. If you’re giving the DNA test kit to a family member, make sure they know everything you know about the privacy settings. They’ll need a strong password that they don’t use on any other online accounts. Recycled passwords are how hackers recently got access to millions of “23andme” accounts. Urge your family member to use multi-factor authentication, in addition to a strong password. That usually involves the website sending a security code to the person who is logging in.

3. Recognize what’s at risk. When it comes to sensitive information, it doesn’t get much more sensitive than DNA records. Not only does that information tell your story, but also the story of those you are related to. The FTC points out that even if a company promises not to share data, hacks can still happen. And while that is a common threat for all businesses and websites, the difference is the extra sensitive nature of DNA records.

If you think a DNA testing company isn’t taking all the necessary precautions, or you’ve run into a problem with this, you can report it to the FTC on its website.

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