The Pentagon is warning its military service members they should not use popular consumer DNA test kits because they could pose security risks and might not provide reliable or accurate health results.
DNA kits have become overwhelmingly popular in finding unknown family or revealing medical history. The kits also come with some controversy as some DNA testing companies have shared the data with law enforcement or sold it to third parties.
A memo sent from the undersecretary of defense for intelligence said some genetic testing companies are encouraging Defense Department personnel to buy genetic-ancestry or health-information products by offering military discounts.
“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 said.
The memo doesn’t specify how military readiness could be at risk if troops use off-the-shelf genetic-testing kits, citing only “increased concern in the scientific community that outside parties are exploiting the use of the genetic data for questionable purposes.”
Spokespersons for the popular companies “Ancestry” and “23andMe” disputed the claims made by the Pentagon about security risks to their data or that their test results were not accurate or reliable.
News4Jax found that 23andMe offers a military discount for free shipping and 10% of additional kits.
Former Navy Seal Lt. Jason Redman said military officials always have to be on alert when it comes to their personal information.
“Anytime you have a group of individuals who have a steady stream of income or are essentially alone for long periods of time, they’re vulnerable," Redman said. "They’re away from home. These are all people scammers love to target.”