Which DNA Test Is The Most Private? Keeping Your DNA Data Safe
Updated on March 18, 2024
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Which DNA Test Is The Most Private? Keeping Your DNA Data Safe

Some of the most private DNA tests we can recommend are from 23andMe and AncestryDNA. These two companies have been praised for their security despite how big their databases are and can be trusted with your data.

DNA testing kits give you valuable insights into your family history and health. To get these results, you need to submit samples of your DNA, which may cause some data privacy concerns.

Labs analyze your samples. Then, the analysis lets you know about your physical characteristics, personality traits, and health risks. The results can even help you find potential relatives or can be used to help you make healthier choices with the help of a genetic counselor.

Which DNA Test Is The Most Private? Keeping Your DNA Data Safe 7

A DNA sample holds your genetic code. Think of it as a map of your entire genetic makeup.

Your DNA contains genes that make you who you are. So, when you send samples to a testing company, you’re handing over personal data to someone else.

Data privacy is becoming a major concern nowadays as people become aware of the potential risks of using their information without their consent. 

DNA data privacy is equally important because genetic data can reveal many sensitive details about yourself.

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The Most Private DNA Tests We Recommend

We reviewed over 15 DNA tests and looked into their privacy policies. We found that well-known DNA test providers also have the most private genetic tests.

Big companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA have more in-depth privacy policies. They also tend to be more accountable for their customers’ data.

It’s because they are more recognizable and have a reputation to uphold. They have more to lose if they are caught mishandling data.

Feature23AndMeAncestryDNA
Our VerdictBest DNA Kit for PrivacyMost Private DNA Test for Ancestry
Test TypeTraits, Ancestry, Health TestsAncestry, Genetic Genealogy, Ethnicity
Privacy MeasuresRandomized Customer IDsIndustry-standard security measures
Separate Storage of SamplesSecure Storage of Samples
Option to Store or Destroy Saliva SampleAnonymous DNA Information Storage
Option to Hide AccountOwnership of Raw DNA Data Retained
Data SharingNo Sharing Without ConsentNo Common Identifying Details
Legal Access RequiredOption to Delete Anytime
Additional InfoExtensive TestingLargest Ancestry Database
Detailed Preventative Security MeasuresDelete Entire Account Anytime

Here are some of the best DNA testing kits and how they protect your data:

23andMe – Best DNA Kit for Privacy

The California-based company has several testing kits available. Depending on the kit you ordered, it can provide traits, genetic ancestry, or health tests.

Here’s how 23andMe protects your privacy:

  • Assign randomized customer identification numbers to DNA samples
  • Stores personal information separately (e.g., name and credit card)
  • You can store your saliva sample or have it destroyed after DNA analysis
  • Gives you the option to hide your account from other 23andMe members
  • Uses encryption to protect transmission of genetic data between users’ devices and their servers
  • Will not share your DNA results with third parties without your consent
  • Complies with relevant privacy laws and regulations to ensure the protection of user data

23andMe won’t share your genetic information with the government or law enforcers. They must present a valid subpoena, warrant, or court order to access the company’s database.

If you want a more extensive test, we recommend 23andMe vs. AncestryDNA. Read our 23andMe review to learn more.

Summary

23andMe offers the best DNA test that highly prioritizes your privacy. It offers different testing kits, covering analysis like ancestry, family history, or health. The company takes security seriously with its number of preventative measures.

AncestryDNA – Most Private DNA Test for Ancestry

AncestryDNA is one of the largest ancestry testing services, with over 20 million customers. They offer genetic tests that trace your genealogy, ethnicity, and ancestry.

Here’s how AncestryDNA protects your privacy:

  • Uses industry-standard security measures 
  • Securely stores your samples, test results, and other personal data
  • DNA information is stored without common identifying details (e.g., name)
  • It uses a unique Activation Code to track your DNA through the testing process and in storage
  • You retain ownership of your raw DNA data
  • Choose to have your DNA raw data deleted anytime

If you want an in-depth ancestry test, AncestryDNA is better than 23andMe. You can read our AncestryDNA review for more information.

Summary

AncestryDNA is the best, most private DNA test for ancestry. It has an extensive database of 20 million users. The company allows you to delete your account with them anytime.

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The Dangers of Sharing Your DNA Data

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We understand how easy and exciting using DNA test kits from your home is. However, these tests may leave your DNA information less protected when performed outside a professional setting.

We’ve considered the potential risks of using an at-home DNA test kit as much as you have. So, let’s go through them.

DNA Services Can Sell Your Data to Third Parties

The thought that DNA testing companies could share or sell your genetic data can be unsettling. It’s a valid concern and one that needs careful consideration.

DNA testing companies can share or sell your information to third parties, such as:

  • Medical researchers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Biomedical industries
  • Law enforcement
  • Insurance companies
  • Employers

Summary

DNA testing companies can share or sell your information to third parties for various reasons. These third-party companies may include medical researchers, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies, law enforcement, etc.

Your DNA Information Can Get Hacked

A DNA testing service can store your genetic information on an online database. If a data breach occurs, hackers can access insecure servers and place your data at risk.

Your DNA reports, such as ancestry information, may get compromised. They can also get a hold of your raw DNA information—a file with your genetic variants.

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The thought of hackers obtaining your DNA data can be deeply concerning. You might show up on DNA matches. They could also use your genetic makeup to create a fake identity or track you.

They can also sell your DNA data to third parties, like pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, etc.

Summary

A DNA testing company can keep your information on an online database, which can be susceptible to data breaches. It’s a cause of concern because if the company’s security measures are not stringent enough, hackers could potentially access your genetic data.

DNA Data Can Be Compromised or Tampered With

People may tamper with your samples or results to influence the outcome. Since companies can store DNA samples, it increases your risk for DNA fraud.

At-home DNA tests may be less secure and private than medical DNA testing. For example, a DNA service can compromise your identity if it keeps the following:

  • Personally identifiable information (PII) on your samples
  • Prepaid return box
  • Customer information

Summary

At-home DNA tests can give away your identity if the companies aren’t careful enough with your information. DNA companies can also tamper with your DNA samples and results.

Some Companies Retain Your Information

DNA testing companies partnered with CLIA-certified labs must retain some of your personal information. They do this even if you request to delete them.

CLIA stands for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) Program. It’s a federal program that ensures accurate and reliable lab testing.

CLIA states that labs must keep information like your DNA, sex, and date of birth as part of their quality control guidelines. Unfortunately, storing information online puts you at risk of a data breach.

Summary

Some companies need to keep your information as a part of their quality control procedures. This can affect your DNA data privacy since storing information online can pose a risk of a data breach.

Missing or Changing Privacy Policies

Every DNA testing company has its privacy policies. These privacy statements can change over time and negatively affect your DNA security.

Many companies don’t even have privacy policies on genetic information.1 Some don’t practice much transparency in gathering, using, and managing customer data.

For example, a 2017 study of DNA testing companies in the U.S. revealed that almost 40 percent of these companies gave no information about their genetic data practices.2

This includes what happens to biological samples or the resulting genetic data.

That said, some services do a better job of protecting your data and keeping it safe.

Summary

The lack of transparency in a DNA company’s privacy policies can negatively impact your DNA security. This is also true for a company with changing privacy policies.

Should You Be Worried About DNA Privacy?

Not necessarily.

We understand the concern since many headlines about data breaches are floating around the internet.

While it’s true that some risks to one’s privacy exist, however, this doesn’t mean your data is entirely unsafe.

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Even though at-home DNA tests are not fully regulated, some government agencies and laws offer some protection. These include:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Both the FTC and GINA cover direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits. But remember that these are just regulations and not laws, so they offer limited protection.3

HIPAA only offers protection for people who take medical genetic tests. It doesn’t cover testing performed using DTC genetic test kits, such as at-home tests.4

Summary

Despite words about data breaches with DNA companies going around, it doesn’t mean that your DNA data is entirely unsafe. A number of government agencies and laws offer some data protection.

Who Keeps My DNA Data Safe?

The FTC is concerned with the privacy of your DNA data and may help keep it safe. GINA and HIPAA can protect your information from being misused by companies.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC promotes consumer protection by enforcing the civil U.S. antitrust law. They can take action against companies that fail to protect customer data.

The agency controls companies that make false and misleading data security and privacy statements. Because of the tendency of some companies to post their results online, the FTC warns consumers always to check the website’s security and privacy policies.

Summary

The FTC can take action against companies that fail to protect the security of their customer’s data. It also regulates false and misleading statements about data security and privacy made by DNA companies.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

According to GINA, employers can’t use genetic data to make job-related decisions, such as:4

  • Hiring or firing
  • Promotions or demotions
  • Amount of pay offered
  • Salary cuts or increases

GINA also prevents health insurance companies from using genetic data to limit their offer to customers. It includes the coverage, insurance costs, and benefits.

In California, they have an amended CalGINA. It prohibits the use of genetic information to discriminate against people who may need the following:5

  • Housing
  • Mortgage loans
  • Emergency care
  • Education
  • Elections

Summary

GINA helps ensure that your genetic data won’t be used to discriminate against you at the workplace when it comes to the results of health tests. It ensures you won’t be denied opportunities and services because of your health tests and DNA results.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA prevents health insurance companies from using genetic data to decide on insurance plans. It is covered by the amended Protected Health Information (PHI).

This includes your genetic information and the DNA of:

  • Your family member
  • The fetus or embryo of a family member
  • Your unborn baby (if you took a DNA test while pregnant)

Even if there’s evidence of genetic health risks, a health insurance company can’t use it to deny or limit your access to their services.

Summary

HIPAA ensures that health insurance companies won’t deny you their services because of your DNA test results. The protection extends to the genetic data of your family member, the fetus or embryo of a family member, and your unborn baby if you took a DNA test while pregnant.

5 Ways To Protect Your DNA Data

Everybody is concerned about hackers and security breaches. But, it may seem impossible to guarantee the complete security of your data. 

However, we’ve put together five ways to help you minimize the risk of compromising your DNA information.

1. Always Read The Fine Print

Before you send a sample for testing, you’ll be asked to sign a consent form on using your DNA. You can learn about genetic testing companies’ privacy policies by reading the fine print. 

These may include important details, such as:

  • What they do to protect your identity
  • How samples are secured while being delivered to a laboratory
  • How DNA samples are stored before and after testing
  • How they keep your DNA test results private
  • If they share your information and to which parties
  • Other security measures to keep your information safe
  • What you can do to protect your DNA data further

Most people need to complete this section. Because if you proceed with the test without doing so, you agree to share your DNA whether or not you read or understood it.

It’s important to read these before giving consent. Your genetic data’s security will largely depend on your chosen testing company’s privacy policies.

2. Make Informed Decisions

You can make an informed choice after reading about a company’s privacy policies. 

If you’re comfortable with how they protect your data, you can sign the consent form and continue with the test. But if you’re not, you can choose not to consent.

Genetic testing companies may also ask for additional permissions. They may also change their privacy policies after you take a test. Make sure to read them before signing.

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3. Try Not To Share Your DNA Data

Some DNA tests provide separate agreements if they need permission to use your data for research. You should avoid sharing your genetic information outside the company.

Once your data reaches a third party, deleting it can be difficult or impossible. They can also share your data with other genetic testing companies or organizations without your knowledge.

4. Ask To Delete Your DNA Raw Data

Private DNA testing companies, such as 23andMe, allow you to destroy your samples and delete your raw data physically. Others, like AncestryDNA, let you delete your entire account.

If your information shows up during DNA matches, deleting your data will prevent it from appearing. Potential family members won’t be able to find you, and you can keep your privacy.

5. Be Careful Where You Upload Your Raw DNA

After taking the test, some companies let you download your raw data for later use. You can upload this file to other DNA services and learn more about your genetic makeup.

You have to be cautious about where you upload your genetic data. Only choose private DNA testing services with comprehensive privacy policies.

Summary

To protect your genetic data, you must always read the privacy policy of the DNA testing company. It helps you make an informed decision on what happens to your data. You may also choose to delete your raw DNA data from a company’s database.

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How to Keep Your DNA Data Safe

​​When selecting a DNA testing service that values your privacy, read their privacy policies carefully.

Check if they claim ownership of your genetic info or if you get to keep control.

Check whether the company asks for your permission before sharing your DNA data. See if they have any research partnerships, and think about whether you’re okay with that.

Find out how they keep your data safe from hackers. Stay updated about any changes to their privacy policies and read what other people say about their experiences.

Be aware of any legal protections, like the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prevents employers from using genetic data to make job-related decisions.

Keep up with the latest info, as things might change. If you’re still unsure, talking to genetic counselors and privacy experts for advice might be a good idea.

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Updated on March 18, 2024
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5 sources cited
Updated on March 18, 2024
  1. How to Protect Your DNA Data Before and After Taking an at-Home Test.” The New York Times.
  2. The law of genetic privacy: applications, implications, and limitations.” Journal of Law and Biosciences.
  3. Personal and Social Issues. Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Testing: Summary of a Workshop.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  4. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).” Legal Information Institute.
  5. Genetic Information Privacy.” Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.