An investigation has been launched into a Covid-19 testing company after the firm claimed it was planning to sell customer DNA samples to researchers.

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), UK’s watchdog on data privacy, announced that it would ‘look very carefully’ at the information collected about. Cignpost Diagnostics reacted to its plan to sell customers’ swabs.

The company, which was among the Covid test providers approved by the Government this year, had spoken of its plans to sell the sensitive medical data in order to ‘learn more about human health’. 

However, those who booked Covid test with ExpressTest did not know that their swabs would be sold to other ‘collaborators’, such as universities or private companies for research purposes.

They did. Instead, they were asked for their consent to the privacy policies that connected to them. A second document describes the company’s research programme.  

Cignpost Diagnostics has not reported how many samples they took. Up to three million delivered Since its inception, June 2006 have kept or if any have been sold for research purposes.

The Covid-19 testing firm is being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) over its plans to sell customers' swabs for medical research. (Stock image)

Covid-19 is currently under investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office. They are looking into its plans to market swabs from customers for medical research. (Stock image)

However, the company also stated that genetic information and biological samples would be kept and shared.

The firm has now removed references to its research programme from its privacy policy, The Sunday Times reports. 

The ICO indicated that it will ‘take careful’ information gathered from The Sunday Times Cignpost Diagnostics.

MailOnline received a statement from Steve Wood, IOC deputy commissioner. It stated: “There is no personal information more sensitive than our DNA.” It is important that people are informed about the current state of their data in an open, transparent and truthful manner so that they can decide whether or not they wish to share it.

“Testing can be a crucial tool in helping people to get out of the crisis and have a good time. To make it work, individuals must trust in the use of their personal information.

“That requires testing programs to be fair and transparent. We’ve worked closely with organizations throughout this pandemic in order to make sure that people’s privacy and security are protected from the beginning.” 

In April this year it was reported that Cignpost Diagnostics was among the cheapest testing firms, charging just £60 for a PCR test at Gatwick and £80 at Heathrow, Birmingham and Edinburgh airports.

According to its website, this Government-approved testing agency claims it has worked with Netflix and other companies in order to produce results in less than four hours.

It is unique among other companies because it owns its mobile laboratories and has its technical staff. That allows it to reduce costs while still making modest profits. 

In September, Cignpost Diagnostics was among the new coalition of Covid test providers provided by Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation (LTIO) which  promised to create a ‘trustworthy’ list of companies Britons can rely on for accurate, timely and fairly priced swabs.  

Cignpost Diagnostics, which was among the Covid test providers approved by the Government this year, spoke of plans to sell the sensitive medical data in order to 'learn more about human health'

Cignpost Diagnostics is one of the Covid providers this year and spoke out about plans to make the medical data available for sale in order to “learn more” about health.

The formation of LTIO came after vows from the Government  to crackdown on the PCR test market, which was likened to the ‘Wild West’, with firms labelled by ministers as ‘acting like cowboys’ by advertising misleading prices on the Government websites. 

The Competition and Markets Authority, No10’s consumer watchdog and regulator, advised the Government that a single-source list be created of test providers approved by the Government.

The CMA made eight recommendations. One of them was to improve the basics so that you can be included and remain on the lists. 

The LTIO vowed a gold standard accreditation process, and kitemark for consumer certainty.  

Only those providers that adhered to the code of conduct set forth in the CMA letter could be granted the kitemark. Providers had to also score at least 3.5 on Trustpilot’s independent rating site.

The LTIO indicated that they would collaborate with the Government to ensure the UK had the best ethical and professional standards in the world. 

Other founding companies were BioGrad and Halo Verify as well as Medical Diagnosis, Project Screen by Prenetics, Qured, Medical Diagnosis and Medical Diagnosis. 

Cignpost made the following statement to The Sunday Times It complies with all data privacy laws and has ‘invested significant in systems and processes that protect customers’.

MailOnline reached out to Cignpost Diagnostics in order for them to comment.