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OSD advises against using direct-to-consumer genetic testing

Could create unintended security consequences

Photo credit: Senior Airman Kathryn R.C. Reaves

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Chris Lawson, 20th Medical Support Squadron lab technician, places a drop of blood on a slide in the medical clinic at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Dec. 9, 2019. Lawson allowed the slide to dry before staining with different colors to make components such as white and red blood cells stand out from each other.)

It has come to the attention of the Department of Defense that some direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies are encouraging DoD personnel to purchase genetic ancestry and health information through the offering of military discounts or other incentives. These DTC 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.

Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to service members. DTC genetic tests that provide health information have varying levels of validity, and many are not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration before they are offered, meaning they may be sold without independent analysis to verify the claims of the seller.

Possible inaccuracies pose more risks to DoD military personnel than the public due to service member requirements to disclose medical information that affects readiness (see DoD Instruction 6025.19, "Individual Medical Readiness"). Testing outside the military health system is unlikely to include a clear description of this risk.

Moreover, there is increased concern in the scientific community that outside parties are exploiting the use of genetic data for questionable purpose, including mass surveillance and the ability to track individuals without their authorization or awareness.

Until notified otherwise, DoD military personnel are advised to refrain from the purchase and/or use of DTC genetic services.

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