Why it matters: Companies like Ancestry and 23andMe offer DNA testing kits that allow consumers to send in saliva samples for analysis and get back a DNA profile. The results can provide users with valuable insight into ancestry, paternity and even health conditions but may come with some unforeseen privacy risks.
The Pentagon is reportedly advising members of the military against the use of consumer DNA testing kits due to security concerns.
In a memo co-signed by Defense Department officials Joseph D. Kernan and James N. Stewart, the agency said exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to service members.
Such companies have come under fire in recent memory for selling DNA testing results with third parties and sharing profiles with law enforcement to help capture criminals. Such techniques were used to help identify the Golden State Killer in 2018 for crimes dating back to the mid-1970s.
“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.”
Even if private companies have no intentions of selling or sharing profiles, there’s still a risk of the data being stolen by hackers.
Yahoo News notes that the memo appears to have been widely distributed within the Defense Department but hadn’t previously been made public.
Masthead credit: DNA fingerprint by isak55