SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - As more and more people are swabbing their cheeks for saliva samples in hopes of discovering their roots, the Pentagon is warning members of the military not to buy or use direct-to-consumer DNA kits.
The office of the Secretary of Defense sent a memo on December 20, citing its concern that the tests are "largely unregulated and could expose personal and genetic information, and create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission."
The DOD says military personnel are more at risk than the public because certain disclosures may affect readiness.
The memo also warns that genetic information could be subject to hacking and used for mass surveillance "and the ability to track individuals without their authorization."
Yahoo News first reported the warning and uploaded the memo.
Ancestry.com is the largest consumer DNA network, with more than 15 million members. In 2011, the Utah-based company expanded its domestic operations to San Francisco. Last fall, the company began offering members AncestryHealth, to provide medical reports to detect potential health issues.
Ancestry says their tests have not been cleared or approved by the FDA.
Sunnyvale-based 23andMe, another direct-to-consumer personal genomics and biotechnology company, has more than 10 million customers who have purchased and used their DNA kits. The company offers both Health and Ancestry services, along with 'Health Predisposition Reports' and 'Carrier Status Reports' for a myriad of diseases including Alzheimer's, Celiac, Parkinson's and Sickle Cell Anemia.
According to the company's website, some, but not all of 23andMe tests meet FDA requirements.
Ancestry issued a statement to the Military Times, saying, ""Protecting our customers' privacy and being good stewards of their data is Ancestry's highest priority. Ancestry does not share customer DNA data with insurers, employers, or third-party marketers."
The company has been working to establish industry standards and issued its "Privacy Best Practices for Consumer Genetic Testing Services. These guidelines are the first of their kind for our industry, and set a self-governed policy framework for the collection, protection, sharing and use of data collected by consumer genomics companies."
for more features.