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More Complicated Than a Santa Tie

DNA testing kits have become a holiday gift guide staple, but Consumer Reports cautions that it can be a complicated gift.

It notes that testing kits can reveal family secrets and health surprises as well as affect the gift recipient's — and their relatives' — genetic privacy. According to Consumer Reports, a 2017 study found that nearly 40 percent of individuals who have taken a direct-to-consumer genetic test didn't really think about whether they might receive negative health information, and early results from an ongoing study indicate that receiving surprising results like a family secret is fairly common. 

At the same time, many firms offering DTC genetic testing share de-identified data they collect, and Consumer Reports notes that there is no law requiring them to get consent to share or sell genetic data they amass. However, 23andMe tells it that its customers choose how their data is used, shared, or stored, and Ancestry says its policy doesn't allow customer data to be shared with insurers, employers, or third-party marketers.

Still, Consumer Reports concludes that "[i]n general, health experts we spoke with said they'd be wary of giving a DTC genetic test as a gift to someone who didn't explicitly ask for it." 

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