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23andMe Easing Restrictions for Former Subscribers amid Uproar over Policy Change

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News)- 23andMe has backed down from a policy change that would have denied former subscribers access to certain services related to their genetic information, the company said over the weekend.

In a message posted on the company's blog, The Spittoon, CEO and Co-founder Anne Wojcicki said that in response to an uproar from members, 23andMe will allow users who choose not to continue their paid subscriptions to access health reports, matches made through the Relative Finder feature, and other ancestry tools that were available during their subscription.

Those who cancel their subscriptions will not be able to access new or updated reports, new or updated Relative Finder matches, or new features, though.

The changes announced during the weekend are a compromise in the face of complaints over the company's plans to cut off access for former subscribers to reports and tools to interpret their raw genetic data. Members would have had continued access to the raw data under the original policy change.

The changes were initially slated to be implemented later this month, but 23andMe said over the weekend that no changes will take place until July 31. Any subscription expiring before then will continue to receive updates without charges for the additional time, Wojcicki said in her blog post.

Additionally, customers will not be removed from the Relative Finder database unless they specifically opt out.

"The 23andMe team is working on creating an experience where subscribing customers will be able to find relatives among subscribers and non-subscribers," Wojcicki said. "The exact details are still to be determined. Be assured that we understand that Relative Finder is an extremely important feature and we are working hard to make sure we give you the best possible experience."

In her post, she also acknowledged that the company could have "done better" in communicating the policy change to users and apologized for a misstep that "managed to turn some of our most valuable supporters into adversaries."