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The Federal Trade Commission finalized an order with that settles charges that the genetic testing firm left sensitive genetic and health data unsecured, deceived consumers about their ability to get their data deleted, and changed its privacy policy retroactively without adequately notifying consumers and obtaining their consent.

In a complaint first announced in June 2023, the FTC said, formerly known as Vitagene, deceived consumers about its privacy and security practices. The FTC said the company failed to keep its promises to only share consumers’ sensitive data in limited circumstances, to destroy customers’ DNA samples shortly after they had been analyzed, to not store DNA results with a consumer’s name or other identifying information, and to remove such data from its servers upon consumers’ request. Despite promising “rock-solid security,” Vitagene put users’ sensitive data at risk by storing unencrypted health, genetic, and other personal information in publicly accessible data buckets, according to the complaint. The FTC also charged that the company in 2020 changed its privacy policy by retroactively expanding the types of third parties with which it could share consumers’ data without notifying affected consumers or obtaining their consent.

As part of the order, must pay $75,000, which the FTC intends to use for consumer refunds. In addition, the company is required to instruct third-party contract laboratories to destroy all consumer DNA samples that have been retained for more than 180 days. Other provisions of the order prohibit from sharing health data with third parties—including information provided by consumers before and after its 2020 privacy policy changes—without obtaining consumers’ affirmative express consent; require the company to notify the FTC about incidents of unauthorized disclosure of consumers’ personal health data; and implement a comprehensive information security program addressing the security failures outlined in the complaint.

After receiving one comment on the matter, the Commission voted 3-0 to finalize the complaint and order and to approve a response to the commenter.

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