Grindr admits to sharing user data — including HIV status — with third parties

Just last week, Grindr was being lauded for its proactive stance on HIV prevention, as the popular gay dating app began urging its millions of users to frequently undergo testing. As the New York Times noted, a number of HIV experts “greeted the announcement enthusiastically,” applauding the service’s decision to send a notification every three to six months to men who opted into the service, as well as a nearby clinic. But now, the applause has been silenced, as the app has come under fire for sharing users’ HIV status with third parties.

As originally reported by BuzzFeed News, the dating app “has been providing its users’ HIV status to … Apptimize and Localytics, which help optimize apps.” And not only has Grindr been sharing HIV status, but also its members’ “last tested date,” GPS data, phone ID, and email — that means that Grindr is sharing enough information for folks to effectively tie together a person’s identity and whether or not he has HIV.

As per Antoine Pultier, a researcher at the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF, which originally discovered the alarming data-sharing system, “The HIV status is linked to all the other information. That’s the main issue. I think this is the incompetence of some developers that just send everything, including HIV status.”

Grindr has since acknowledged that it was indeed sharing this information, but in a response on its Tumblr page, pointed out, “It’s important to remember that Grindr is a public forum. We give users the option to post information about themselves including HIV status and last test date, and we make it clear in our privacy policy that if you choose to include this information in your profile, the information will also become public.” The app also noted that it has “never, nor will … ever sell personally identifiable user information – especially information regarding HIV status or last test date – to third parties or advertisers.” Of course, just because Grindr isn’t selling this information doesn’t mean it’s not being accessed.

All the same, the dating platform added that its vendors “are under strict contractual terms that provide for the highest level of confidentiality, data security, and user privacy,” which means that user data is carefully encrypted before being sent out. But this news may cause Grindr users to think twice about what they’re posting on their profiles.

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