Pentagon Tells Military Personnel to Avoid Using At-Home DNA Kits

The 19th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards - Gift Lounge - Day 1

The 19th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards - Gift Lounge - Day 1

Officials at the Pentagon have advised military personnel to avoid at home-DNA kits such as those offered by companies like 23-and-Me, and, citing security risks, NBC News reported.

According to the Dec. 20 memo from Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Joseph Kernan and acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, James Stewart, companies who offer the DNA kits are targeting military members with discounts and other types of incentives to use their product. The kits provide consumers with information about their DNA profile, including information on their ancestry, insights into any potential genetic medical conditions and in some cases bring together previously unknown family members. The DNA profile is determined after the consumer sends in a cheek swab or saliva sample.

However, those tests have raised potential privacy issues, with some companies sharing the information they obtained with law enforcement or other third parties.

"Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to Service members," the memo by senior Pentagon officials states.

“These [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 adds.

The memo does not include details on how operational security could be affected by the DNA kits, other than to note that potential inaccuracies about the consumer's health information could pose a risk to military personnel.

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

Military personnel are being told to refrain from using the kits until they are notified otherwise.

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