Grindr caught sharing user HIV status with third parties

UPROXX  Unsplash

UPROXX Unsplash

According a report from BuzzFeed News, the company is sharing user data with two other companies - data that includes email addresses, Global Positioning System data, phone IDs, and HIV statuses.

Commenting on the story, Evgeny Chereshnev, CEO and founder of privacy-focused wearable company Biolink.Tech, said: "All practices where a company has access to confidential information such as HIV status, sexual orientation or even information on deadly allergies, should be illegal to share with other parties".

The company came under fire after a Norwegian nonprofit called SINTEF first revealed that the HIV information is sent together with users' Global Positioning System data, phone ID, and email.

In Grindr's defence, the app does let users specify their HIV status and the date of their last health check. Grindr's data retention policies further protect against the possibility of disclosure.

The popular gay hookup app Grindr said late on Monday that it would stop sharing information about its users' HIV status with third-party analytics companies. The developers bundle users' information before shipping it off to these third parties, and never stopped to think about the consequences. "That's the main issue", Pultier said to BuzzFeed News.

"Grindr is a relatively unique place for openness about HIV status", James Krellenstein, a member of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP New York, told BuzzFeed News. The importance of transparency becomes incredibly clear in this example, as Grindr is experiencing a public relations nightmare despite having language that at least vaguely covered its practices.

Grindr, which describes itself as "the world's largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people", has 3.6 million global users, according to Marketwatch.

Experts also brought into question the matter of user privacy and its breach by sharing data that could potentially put the user's life at risk.

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"I hope that one small silver lining here will be that users and citizens will realize that there are enormous loopholes in the privacy regime", he said, "and that personal information is bought and sold freely on a global market".

According to a press release, "Grindr users will be able to opt-in to easily and discreetly receive automatic reminders to get tested for HIV every three to six months".

The company said the data sharing was "standard" in the industry and that it considers its app a "public forum".

But some Grindr users reacted angrily to this admission it shared personal data, with one user asking what other information Grindr had shared with other firms, and they were only admitting this after getting caught.

Under the app's HIV status category, users can select from a variety of statuses, which include whether the user is positive, positive and on HIV treatment, negative or negative and on PrEP.

"When working with these platforms we restrict information shared except as necessary or appropriate", Chen said.

He added: "The limited information shared with these platforms is done under strict contractual terms that provide for the highest level of confidentiality, data security, and user privacy".

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