Pentagon Latest to Warn About Concerns Around DNA Test Kits
The Pentagon has a memo (literally) for military service members: Be careful about using at-home DNA test kits as they may prove a security concern.
"These 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," states the memo sent to military members and first reported by Yahoo News.
The Pentagon missive is unclear on exactly how such data may impact national security, though the implication is that it might unveil sensitive information that could compromise service members. One key issue seems to be that military members are required to report their medical problems.
For one thing, these tests might lead to the "unintentional discovery of [biological] markers that may affect readiness," which could in turn "affect a service member’s career," Pentagon spokesperson Commander Sean Robertson told the New York Times.
The Pentagon is the latest to express concerns about basic issues that critics of consumer DNA test kits have previously raised. Those include uncertainty about how accurate such testing kits are, the quality of medical advice that can be gleaned from such services without the help of a professional genetic counselor, and a lack of privacy regulation in a quickly growing field.
DNA testing services such as 23andMe and Ancestry have exploded in popularity these past few years. As of this summer, 23andMe alone had 10 million customers—and that's not even considering the recent 2019 holiday season, one of the most lucrative times of year for such companies.
Many of these firms market their products as a way to provide consumers ownership of their own genomic data without having to deal with the hassle of a doctor's office. And, in some ways, they've won regulatory blessings.
For instance, 23andMe has Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance to market its direct-to-consumer tests and accompanying health reports for a number of conditions, including Alzheimer's and various inherited diseases.