Grindr Defends HIV-Related Data Sharing

  • Grindr Defends HIV-Related Data Sharing

Grindr Defends HIV-Related Data Sharing

One Grindr user who identified himself as Danny said he originally thought the dating app's option to disclose HIV status was "great", also lauding frequent reminders on the app to get tested.

Apptimize and Localytics, both data-optimization firms, have received certain information that some Grindr users choose to include in their profiles, including their HIV status and "last tested date".

According to BuzzFeed News, Grindr shared data about its users' HIV statuses and "last tested date", along with more general information such as their Global Positioning System location and email addresses, with app optimisation companies Apptimize and Localytics. It noted that some of the information (not including one's HIV status) was being shared in easily hackable plain text - including a user's Global Positioning System location, gay subculture, sexuality, relationship status, ethnicity and phone ID. Buzzfeed News independently confirmed the allegations by the researchers. "I think privacy comes first", said Cecilia Chung, a San Francisco Health Commissioner and transgender, HIV awareness advocate. "What stood out the most from these discussions is just how often we heard about the intense anxieties users had about bringing up sexual health when they were chatting on the app", Grindr said at the time.

"2. As an industry standard practice, Grindr does work with highly-regarded vendors to test and optimize how we roll out our platform".

In a lengthy, point-by-point statement, Scott Chen, Grindr's chief technology officer, said the company does not sell personally identifiable user information to third parties or advertisers.

The revelation drew sharp criticism of Grindr, with many slamming the upstart for sharing what many consider to be highly sensitive personal information with third-parties along with Global Positioning System coordinates. "We pay these software vendors to utilize their services". Additionally, Grindr users were likely unaware that this sort of information was shared with third parties.

"Grindr's action with its clients' data appears to be unprecedented and is a serious violation of laws protecting the confidentiality of clients' personal information, particularly sensitive health information that may result in stigma and discrimination targeting those individuals", Weinstein said in a statement released to the press. Second, app developers must be aware that information collection, even with the best intentions such as promoting safe sex, can come back and bite you. Grindr's data retention policies further protect against the possibility of disclosure. As the testing of our feature has completed, any information related to HIV status has been removed from Apptimized and we are in the process of discussing removal of this data from Localytics. 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. This is just something we use for internal tooling. It is now understood that the app has chose to stop sharing HIV status with third party companies. The company has now also admitted that it shared information from users' profiles with third parties - specifically the analytics companies Apptimize and Localytics - including their HIV status.