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Schumer warns of genealogy test privacy concerns; says there should be protections

The senator said there is no policy for how they use and distribute customers’ information.

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the federal

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the federal government to set privacy standards on commercial DNA testing kits. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A surge in the popularity of DNA heritage websites poses a potential privacy problem for thousands of unsuspecting users, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Services like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage don’t disclose their privacy policies in a way that clearly lets users know how their information could be given to third parties, Schumer said.

He called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the sites and ensure “test kits are clear, transparent, and fair to consumers.”

“We don’t want to impede research but we also don’t want to empower those looking to make a fast buck or an unfair judgment off your genetic information. We can find the right balance here, and we must,” he said in a statement.

For most of these sites, users mail a cheek swab or saliva sample for genetic analysis, in addition to providing information on relatives and ancestry going back decades.

Schumer said the DNA testing industry, which generated $70 million in 2015 and is expected to increase to $340 million in five years, doesn’t have a standard policy for how they use and distribute customers’ information. In some cases, the wording makes it seem like the service could monetize the information.

A spokesman for MyHeritage said the company does not compromise its users’ information.

“MyHeritage will never sell or license DNA data to any 3rd party without the user’s explicit informed consent, and will never sell or license personal information of users to any 3rd party,” Aaron Godfrey, VP of marketing for the site, said in a statement.

The FTC and Ancestry.com did not immediately return messages for comment.

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