From the very moment that consumer DNA tests arrived on the American market, there were concerns among privacy experts that the information gleaned from their use could be mishandled or purposefully exploited.
Much like our brazen use of social media has led to uncontrolled data harvesting by companies such as Facebook and Google, corporations who are processing these DNA kits are also forcing users to sign away any rights that they have to the privacy of that information. Of course, in a world where racial tensions are slowly improving, it’s not the ancestry that experts are concerned about but rather the information contained within our DNA that could indicate a number of genetic predispositions that could be used to exploit the population.
If you were at risk for heart disease, for instance, DNA testing companies could sell that information to health insurers who could then gouge your rates or deny you coverage altogether.
The Pentagon is now recognizing the risks involved with these corporations and warning military members to steer clear.
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The Pentagon is advising members of the military not to use consumer DNA kits, saying the information collected by private companies could pose a security risk, according to a memo co-signed by the Defense Department’s top intelligence official.
A growing number of companies like 23andMe and Ancestry sell testing kits that allow buyers to get a DNA profile by sending in a cheek swab or saliva sample. The DNA results provide consumers information on their ancestry, insights into possible medical risks and can even identify previously unknown family members.
The boom in popularity of such kits has raised ethical and legal issues, since some companies have shared this data with law enforcement or sold it to third parties. The Defense Department is now expressing its own concerns about these kits.
“Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to Service members,” says the Dec. 20 memo signed by Joseph D. Kernan, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and James N. Stewart, the assistant secretary of defense for manpower.
The memo continued:
“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,” states the memo.
Beyond the risks related to health, the ability of foreign actors to collect DNA from scenes of US military action, and then cross-reference those samples in order to exact revenge on those soldiers has been considered as well.
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