Grindr Is Sharing The HIV Status Of Its Users With Other Companies

Grindr logo provided

Grindr logo provided

In addition to offering reminders for users to get regular HIV tests, popular same-sex dating app Grindr is also sharing those same test results with other companies, reportedly.

The Los Angeles-based company said that it uses Apptimize and Localytics to test and validate its platform, and that data it shares with them could include users' HIV status or location fields. Because the information is sent to the third party apps along with users' Global Positioning System data, phone ID and email, it could be used by anyone with access to the data -including hackers or governments -to identify specific individuals, according to Antoine Pultier, a researcher at the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF, which first identified the issue.

Hookup fixer Grindr is on the defensive after it shared sensitive information, including HIV status and physical location, of its app's users with outside organizations.

Grindr chief technology officer Scott Chen said in a Tumblr post that sharing data with partners such as Apptimize and Localytics was "industry practice" and that steps were taken to protect people's privacy. Even if both companies agree to treat the personal user data secure, Grindr is still adding new vectors for bad actors to zero in on.

A Norwegian nonprofit has discovered that the information is being shared with two private companies that help "optimise" apps, Localytics and Apptimize.

While the app is at the forefront of being open about HIV stigma, says AIDs advocate James Krellenstein, this sharing of data is a huge concern.

Grindr was targeted in a recent security breach by a third party site called C*ckblocked, which allowed users to see who had blocked them on the app by inputting their username and passwords.

Localytics, meanwhile, said that it does not "automatically" collect a Grindr user's personal information. Among the information found to be passed around by Grindr was the user's HIV status, something Grindr allows members to list in their profiles.

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"As an industry standard practice, Grindr does work with highly-regarded vendors to test and optimize how we roll out our platform", a company spokesperson told Mashable over email.

Grindr insists its sole goal for sharing highly sensitive health information is an effort to better the app.

"Some people's jobs may be in jeopardy if the wrong people find out about their status - or maybe they have hard family situations", one user, Chris Taylor of Seattle, told BuzzFeed News, adding: "It can put people in danger, and it feels like an invasion of privacy". "We pay these software vendors to utilize their services", Chen said. Its privacy policy cautions: "Remember that if you choose to include information in your profile, and make your profile public, that information will also become public".

"To then have that data shared with third parties that you weren't explicitly notified about, and having that possibly threaten your health or safety - that is an extremely, extremely egregious breach of basic standards that we wouldn't expect from a company that likes to brand itself as a supporter of the queer community". "You betrayed the LGBT community in more than just the one way".

But the average person may not know or understand what they've agreed to in the fine print.

Grindr is used by more than 3.6 million people daily around the world, including countries where being gay poses real social, financial and legal risks.

"What the law regards as informed consent is in nearly all instances uninformed consent".

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