23andMe announced that it will now be offering more genetic details for customers who have DNA linked to ancestors from African, East Asian and Native American regions. The product offering, according to TechCrunch, offers more information specifically for people of color.
The new data regions include Southern East African, Congolese, Coastal West African, Ethiopian & Eritrean, Senegambian & Guinean, Nigerian, Somali, Sudanese, Chinese Dai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai Khmer & Myanmar.
23andMe customers will have access to this new data by early 2019, but there was some initial confusion that early customers will likely have to retake the test. According to a 23andMe spokesperson, while they are working on an upgrade for their health reports (for an extra fee), the new genetic data will be available for free to all customers.
23andMe and other DNA testing services have come under fire for the lack of information available for people of color. But the DNA comparison comes from each company’s database of users, which have consisted of primarily white Europeans. About 75 percent of 23andMe’s customers are of European descent, according to the company.
“Key to this update is really the availability of more data from around the world, specifically in Africa and Asia,” 23andMe Senior Product Manager Robin Smith told TechCrunch. “It’s possible through certain initiatives, like the African Genetics Project and Global Genetics Project.”
CEO Anne Wojcicki told TechCrunch at Disrupt SF last year that “we needed these initiatives to go out and get the data.”
23andMe is also reportedly looking at customer interest in a premium service for $749, with more detailed insight into genetic profiles. Customers at first thought it was available when the company sent a test page, but 23andMe said the test page was only to gauge interest, and didn’t lead to an active sign-up process.
Privacy issues have been a concern for all DNA testing companies. Recently, 23andMe announced that it would no longer share raw data with third party developers, protecting its more than five million customers from having their data mishandled or exploited. While DNA testing companies often have strict privacy protocols with DNA samples, third parties who have accessed data have not been held to the same standards, and often customers don’t have knowledge or consent over how their DNA is used or who is allowed to use it.
Last year, 23andMe raised $250 million to put towards research that would expand the diversity of the data and the research on that diversity,” according to TechCrunch.