23andMe controversies in the genetic genealogy community

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJan 2, 2012 2:11 AM


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A few readers have pointed me to controversies having to do with 23andMe's "terms of use". You can read about it over at Your Genetic Genealogist, who has twoposts up on the issues. I think the crux is that the early enthusiasts for personal genomics in the genetic genealogy community can not support the revenue needs of a firm like 23andMe. The question for the firm is how to expand its reach more fully into the domain of personalized healthcare, where the big money and mainstream impact is, without alienating these early adopters, who are not bashful about spreading bad buzz all over the blogosphere. From what I can tell there's a lot of confusion as to what's going on. Myself, I don't care about the details too much. My main interest is getting the raw data, I don't pay that much attention to the various health & genealogy services that 23andMe provides. But I can understand why others feel differently. I also know that 23andMe is not irrational, and is trying to run a firm which can generate a profit. They're not a charity. The key is how they can make the "person on the street" more interested. I have purchased eight accounts in their system, most of them with the monthly personal genome service fees. It's pretty clear that most of the people who I've purchased these accounts for don't play close attention to the results. Yes, they were curious, but they haven't kept up with the health report updates, or explored the other services. Obviously I'm going to cancel the subscriptions for that reason, as I'm not interested in paying for a service that's not being utilized. I wish 23andMe, and all the new personal genomics firms, the best of luck. This is a time of great change, and I think in 2020 this sort of service is going to be a seamless part of our lives. But working out the details isn't always going to be without error (my own suggestion would be a reversion to more fine-grained service with the subscriptions). Life comes at you fast....

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