Gay dating app Grindr criticized for handling of HIV data

Grindr shares users' HIV status with third-party companies report

Grindr shares users' HIV status with third-party companies report

Buzzfeed's report included findings by the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF, which said that users' HIV data were being shared along with their Global Positioning System location and other identifying information, such as sexuality, relationship status, ethnicity and phone IDs to third-party advertising companies.

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.

What's more, the app has been sharing users' info - like Global Positioning System location, sexuality, relationship status, and phone ID - with advertising companies, according to SINTEF.

On Monday, BuzzFeed News cited research done by Antoine Pultier of the Norwegian group SINTEF, which found that, because all of these data points are transferred, Grindr users could easily be identified.

BuzzFeed News reported Monday that the app Grindr provided the sensitive medical information to Apptimize and Localytics - which help optimize apps and sharpen marketing strategies.

Bryce Case, Grindr's chief security officer, told BuzzFeed the company had made a decision to stop sharing information with Localytics over the reaction to the report, calling it a "misunderstanding of technology". What's more, even if Grindr doesn't have specific health data on you, this information might be enough to identify you as a user of a queer-focused app. "We pay these software vendors to utilize their services", Chen said.

Both Apptimize and Localytics do, indeed, specialize in maximizing the performance of mobile apps and have thousands of clients. It will happen when the app's next update is released, he said.

Chen said Grindr is a public forum and it was up to users to "carefully consider what information to include" in their profile.

Grindr's security boss, Bryce Case later told United States news site Axios that the goal of sharing the data sharing with third-party companies was to improve the app for users rather than sell their data.

"Under no circumstances does Localytics automatically collect a user's personal information, nor do we require personal information in order for our customers to get the benefits from using our platform", Localytics product VP Bryan Dunn said in a statement to The Register.

"It may be a commercial app, but as an LGBTQ app Grindr has responsibilities to the wider communities". Revelations about the data sharing may make Grindr users wary of disclosing HIV status and promoting safer hygiene.

But the app has hit back at the criticism and said that its "industry standard use of third party partners" was only to "test and validate" its platform. "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 and that personal information is bought and sold freely on a global market".

However, neither SVT nor BuzzFeed have accused Grindr of selling this information. This is highly sensitive information that some people may not want to share with others, especially without knowledge of who exactly it is being shared with.

Users of the app are given the option to share their HIV status, as well as when they were last tested, and this information is readily available to others.

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