U.S. military personnel are warned by the Pentagon not to use DNA test kits, warning that the common genetic testing kits may pose a security risk.
Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry allow individuals to receive a rundown of their genetic makeup and regional origins by supplying a sample of saliva. Ancestry has some 15 million users, while 23andMe claims they have 10 million users.
But a defense memo department, published by Yahoo News, cautioned that military members could be put at risk by the kits.
“The release of confidential genetic information to outside parties presents personal and organizational threats to members of the Service,” wrote Joseph D. Kernan, Deputy Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and James N. Stewart, Deputy Secretary of Defense for Human Resources.
The memo of December 20, which noted that some DNA kit firms threatened military personnel with discounts, appears to have been widely distributed within the Department of Defense, Yahoo News reported.
“Such genetic tests[ direct-to-consumer] are largely unregulated and could reveal personal and genetic information, potentially creating unintended safety implications and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” they wrote.
“In the scientific community, there is a growing concern that outside parties misuse the use of genetic data for dubious purposes, including mass surveillance and the ability to track individuals without their permission or knowledge.” The memo represents a broader concern regarding biometrics such as DNA, fingerprints and facial recognition.
Erin Murphy, a professor at New York University’s School of Law, said a commercial genetic database could be used to unmask a person working undercover.
“It all boils down to the same basic idea,” she told the website.“In a world in which a few stray cells can be used to identify a person, there is no such thing as a covert action, and no such thing as anonymity.