Posts tagged with "23andMe"

Pentagon memo warns that DNA kits pose ‘personal and operational risks’

December 31, 2019

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, Yahoo News has exclusively reported.

A growing number of companies—among them,  23andMe, Ancestry, and MyHeritagesell testing kits that provide consumers with a DNA profile, if they send in a cheek swab or saliva sample. They claim that their DNA profile offer insights into the buyer’s ancestry and possible medical risks—and even 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. Yahoo notes. But the latest to express its concerns publicly is the Defense Department.

“Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to Service members,” says the December 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 — which says that some DNA kit companies have been targeting military personnel with discounts — appears to have been distributed widely within the Defense Department. The memo was obtained by Yahoo News.

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.

The memo provides few details on how genetic profiles could endanger security, other than noting that potential “inaccuracies” in health information could pose a risk to military personnel, who are required to report medical issues. Most of the health reports provided by DNA companies typically pertain to medical risks, such as a predisposition to cancer, rather than diagnosing a condition.

Research contact: @YahooNews

Majority of Americans would try a genetics kit

April 4, 2018

If you have exhausted family trees, municipal records, psychics, and horoscopes in your search for information on your heritage and medical history, now there’s a new and slightly more reliable source: Most Americans are interested in using DNA testing to understand more about their health and ancestry, according to a findings of a national survey commissioned by 23andMe.

The survey—conducted on behalf of the personal genetics company among 1,000 U.S. adults by Kelton Global in 2017— also revealed an opportunity for education, illustrating that people’s strong interest in genetics is out ahead of their understanding of the science.

For example, nearly three-fourths of those surveyed (74%) said they were interested in testing, but about the same percentage of people (75% percent) didn’t know that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes.

And while they are interested, few Americans have gone ahead with a DNA test yet. Indeed, according to the researchers, fewer than 8% of respondents said they actually had performed an at-home DNA test.

Why not? Some of the barriers included the cost of testing, and testing simply not being top-of-mind.

Only 17% of those surveyed said their concerns about privacy were keeping them from testing. While about 80% of respondents admitted that they had privacy concerns around DNA testing, much of that concern stemmed from not knowing how their data would be protected.

About 88% of respondents said they didn’t know or understand what sort of precautions testing companies take to secure this information. Four out of five respondents said they’d be more willing to take a genetic test, if they were certain their privacy was being protected. Interestingly, the survey also showed that individuals who had privacy concerns were actually more likely to want to test, than those who did not have privacy concerns.

What’s more, about two-thirds would be more likely to test, if they knew that their data would be used to make new genetic discoveries and power research into new cures or treatments.

Most respondents (about 77%) said they know that genetics plays a role in the risk for certain diseases, and about 90% said they were aware that DNA testing could inform them about their ancestry.

Finally, 94% said that—whether it is information about their health, or ancestry, or traits—they believe that they have a right to at-home DNA testing to directly access this type of genetic information.

Research contact: press@23andme.com