A Very Wary Christmas: Don’t Take DNA Tests, Pentagon Warns Troops
By Daniel McGroarty, TES GeoPolicy Editor
We’re used to government agencies warning about dangerous children’s toys at the holiday season, but since when does the Pentagon warn active duty troops about what may be in their Christmas stockings?
That’s happening this year, according to NBC News, which reports based on a memo from the DoD’s Under Secretary for Intelligence, warning about the medical data privacy concerns of popular DNA test kits:
“‘…[T]here is increased concern in the scientific community that outside parties are exploiting the use of genetic materials for questionable purposes, including mass surveillance and the ability to track individuals without their authorization or awareness,’ the memo said.”
Or maybe even to develop bio-weapons tuned to specific DNA: That’s the danger raised by the UK’s Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.
But then that’s only possible if someone hacked the home-DNA testers.
…Which happened in 2018 to the DNA of 92 million home-testers who used DNA mapper MyHeritage. As The Verge asked-and-answered in reporting that story, “Why a DNA Data Breach is Much Worse Than a Credit Card Leak:” “You can’t change your DNA.”
As we as a society grapple with whether digital data makes our lives better and easier, or whether it will provide our own government technology tools with which to control us – or other governments the means to (selectively) destroy us, the risk is no longer hypothetical.
This holiday season, it may be sitting under the Christmas tree.
Maybe the safest bet for that serviceman or -woman on your holiday gift list is a MilSpec Pentagon fruitcake – aka “Military Specification MIL-F-1499F, amended 1980.”
Pretty sure no one has hacked that.
Daniel McGroarty, TES GeoPolicy editor, served in senior positions in the White House and Department of Defense, and has testified in the U.S. Senate and House on critical minerals issues. McGroarty is principal of Washington, D.C.-based Carmot Strategic Group, and president of the American Resources Policy Network, a non-partisan virtual think tank dedicated to informing the public on the importance of developing U.S. metal and mineral resources. The views expressed here are his own.