Genetic Testing Kits Don't Always Live Up to the Hype

James R. Hood
James R. Hood

Genetic testing is a powerful tool that holds great promise for improving human health but a study by the Consumer Federation of America cautions that accuracy and privacy considerations shouldn’t be overlooked.

“There is a lot of helpful information on … genetic testing companies’ websites about genetics and how their services work, but we’re concerned that not many consumers will delve into it and [will] assume they’ll get more detailed and conclusive results than they actually will,” said Susan Grant, CFA Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy and the report’s author.

“As awful as it is to read companies’ privacy policies, it’s really important to do so before you purchase a DTC genetic test kit, and to use the controls the company provides when you set up your account,” she added.

The CFA study notes that the test results aren’t 100 percent accurate and vary from one company to another. This is because these tests are estimates based on comparing your data to that of the company’s other customers. As DTC genetic testing companies add more customers and collect more data, the results of their tests may change.

Privacy is another concern, and companies’ privacy policies are not always clear, as the table below indicates. You can generally control what other customers of the genetic testing company can see about you and how they can communicate with you, but you may have little control over whether the company uses your personal information to try to sell you other products and services and with whom the company shares it for marketing.

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The full report is available on CFA’s website.

James R. Hood

Jim is a publishing entrepreneur and journalist. He founded ConsumerAffairs in 1998 and earlier was the founder of Zapnews, after holding executive posts at the Associated Press.