The company behind a popular at-home DNA testing kits, 23andMe, has laid off roughly 100 employees amid waning demand for its product.
The company confirmed to Gizmodo that the layoffs amount to roughly 14 per cent of the company’s employees, adding that its “consumer business was impacted company-wide.” 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki told CNBC, which first reported the layoffs, that she was “surprised” by the shift in demand.
CNBC cited Wojcicki as noting privacy concerns could be one possible factor for the decline in sales, with Wojcicki telling the site that “privacy is top of mind” for the company and that it has recently brought on a new security chief. While CNBC reported that Wojcicki doesn’t have proof that consumer privacy fears are the primary driver for spiraling sales, it’s certainly one good rationale. There are plenty of other reasons at-home DNA testing kits are losing their novelty.
For one, research has found that these tests are not 100 per cent accurate or even a complete snapshot of an individual’s health profile. In fact, the tests have been known to flat out botch results. But if misleading or altogether inaccurate information isn’t enough of a reason for users to give the kits a pass, their privacy should be. For example, if sharing information related to your genetic profile with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline makes your skin crawl, 23andMe is not the product for you.
Still, restoring trust in the company’s policies around “privacy”—or, rather, the reanimated zombie version seemingly used by virtually every tech company, including the data butterfingers over at Facebook—appears to be one of the company’s foremost focuses right now. How else can you get away with selling a product asking people to fork over highly-sensitive and personal genetic information about themselves in the year 2020 if you don’t?