DNA testing kits could pose a security risk, according to the Pentagon. A Department of Defense memo, obtained by Yahoo News, has warned that the kits could put members of the military at risk and they are being advised not to use them.
“Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to Service members”, wrote Joseph D. Kernan, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and James N. Stewart, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower.
The memo states that some DNA testing companies have been targeting military personnel with discounts. And these appear to have been distributed widely within the Defense Department.
“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 continues.
“There is increased concern in the scientific community that outside parties are exploiting the use of genetic data for questionable purposes, including mass surveillance and the ability to track individuals without their authorization or awareness.”
Concerns about biometrics
Biometrics refers to body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. Biometric identifiers are distinctive and measurable characteristics that include fingerprints, facial recognition, DNA, palm veins, and iris recognition. The Pentagon memo reflects a wider concern about the use of biometrics in identifying individuals.
Home DNA testing kits permit individuals to get a breakdown of their genetic makeup and geographic heritage from a simple saliva sample. More than 26 million people have already uploaded their DNA data to public ancestry websites from the likes of Ancestry and 23andMe, according to MIT Technology Review. While this trend has populated news channels with heartwarming stories of reunited family members, it also has posed ethical questions about situations that were supposed to remain private, such as anonymous sperm donors, adoptions, and children born as a result of affairs.
Erin Murphy, a Professor at New York University’s School of Law, is a nationally recognized expert in forensic DNA typing. According to her, a commercial genetic database could be used to unmask a person working undercover.
“It all boils down to the same basic idea,” she told Yahoo News. “In a world in which a few stray cells can be used to identify a person, there is no such thing as a covert action, and no such thing as anonymity.”
Researchers led by Columbia University have argued that more than half of all Americans could be identified by name simply by analyzing a sample of their DNA, and knowing their age and where they live. The researchers say that once 3 million Americans have uploaded their genomes to public genealogy websites nearly everyone in the USA would be identifiable.
Data security is paramount to AlphaBiolabs
Our DNA testing is 100% confidential. All of our reports are sent as a pdf file that require a password to open them. All correspondence is kept confidential. We mail out our testing kits in discreet plain packaging with no company logos or branding. Online payment transactions do not name AlphaBiolabs as the recipient on bank statements.
We don’t sell on your data. We work hard to prevent your personal data from being disclosed or accessed in an unauthorized way by using a secure server that protects any financial transactions on our website. We also take appropriate physical, electronic and managerial measures to ensure that any data disclosed to us are kept secure.
All DNA samples are destroyed after 3 months and all identification documents – hard copy and electronic files – are destroyed after 12–18 months.
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