Photo by Arek Socha from Pixabay
Senior officials at the Pentagon have reportedly issued recent guidance advising military personnel to refrain from using DNA kits, according to a military memo that went out on Dec. 20.
Without referencing specific companies, the lengthy Department of Defense memo pointedly requests military members to refrain from using at-home DNA kits that entice the DoD personnel with various incentives such as military discounts. Many popular DNA kits such as Ancestry or 23andme employ a sample collecting process in which end users are instructed to submit saliva swabs manually along with information on their ancestry, as well as personal / biological information about possible health risks they may face in the future.
Concerned about service members’ exposure to DNA kit companies operating in a relatively unseasoned industry that is also not yet adequately regulated, the memo states “These DTC 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 DoD memo further explained that since respective levels of validity differs on a company by company basis, such variances in DNA user data could cause errors and inconsistencies when DoD military officials disclose their medical records for combat.
The memo goes on to note the concerns the DoD has about outside companies that buy genetic data information for malicious reasons such as mass surveillance and unauthorized tracking of individuals.
One spokesperson for Ancestry.com said that the company has emplaced stringent standards to protect consumer privacy. “Ancestry does not share customer DNA data with insurers, employers, or third-party marketers. Ancestry will also not share customer personal information with law enforcement unless compelled to by valid legal processes, such as a court order or search warrant” the Ancestry spokesperson stated. “Protecting our customers’ privacy and being good stewards of their data is Ancestry’s highest priority,” 23AndMe has not yet responded for any comments.