Pentagon Warns Military Mail-In DNA Tests Pose Security Risks: Report

December 25, 2019 Updated: December 26, 2019
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The Pentagon has warned members of the military against using mail-in DNA kits as they may pose a security risk, Yahoo reports.

An internal memo, co-signed by the Defense Department’s top intelligence official, was issued Dec. 20 and obtained by the publication.

It warns that the kits are “largely unregulated” and that information collected by private companies could create a potential risk to military members.

The memo also states that some DNA kit companies are targeting military personnel with discounts, although it does not name any specific companies.

“These DTC [direct-to-consumer] genetic tests are largely unregulated and could expose personal and genetic information, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” the memo reads.

“Moreover, there is increased concern in the scientific community that outside parties are exploiting the use of genetic data for questionable purposes, including mass surveillance and the ability to track individuals without their authorization or awareness,” it adds.

The memo also notes that potential “inaccuracies” in health information could pose further risk to military personnel, who are required to report medical issues. However, it does not elaborate further on exactly what these risks are.

Yahoo reports the memo is signed by Joseph D. Kernan, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and James N. Stewart, the assistant secretary of defense for manpower.

A growing number of companies sell DNA kits that can easily be done at home by the consumer merely taking a cheek swab or a sample of their saliva.

The results provide consumers with information on their ancestry, their family tree, as well as insights into possible medical risks.

The Department is instead advising military personnel to get DNA results information from a “licensed professional.”

“We want to ensure all service members are aware of the risks of Direct to Consumer (DTC) genetic testing,” spokeswoman Elissa Smith told The Hill.

“The unintentional discovery of markers that may affect readiness could affect a service member’s career, and the information from DTC genetic testing may disclose this information.”

Smith added that the information provided by private companies “may or may not” be reliable results.

Last year, a number of companies that offer consumer genetic testing pledged to protect customer privacy under a new set of voluntary guidelines after growing concerns over data being used by third parties without customer consent.

The guidelines mean companies must provide detailed transparency to consumers about how genetic data is collected, used, shared, and retained.