Gay dating app Grindr to stop sharing HIV status with analytics firms

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BuzzFeed reports that the gay hookup app has given this data to Apptimize and Localytics - third-party companies that optimize apps - without notifying its users. "Grindr, who only mention sharing user data in their privacy policy, does not obtain clear consent", Myrstad asserts. It questioned the rationale for the share, which it found alarming. It's unknown what data these companies actually have access to, but if Grindr's data sharing is any indication, they may have huge amounts of sensitive information, not just from Grindr but other companies too. But he also said that Grindr was encrypting the data, meaning that it wouldn't have been able to be matched with specific users. The information that was shared included HIV status, last date of testing, along with identifying information about the phone, email, and Global Positioning System data.

Buzzfeed's report was based on an analysis by Antoine Pultier, a researcher at the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF.

The company claims the contracts with the 2 companies are both standard practice and secure. "The Consumer Council see this as a cause for concern regarding whether the privacy rights of European Grindr users are sufficiently respected".

Journalist Steven Thrasher wrote on Twitter that the revelation of Grindr's privacy violation could have wide-reaching effects on the app's 3.6 million users.

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"There are still 72 countries in the world that criminalise homosexuality and even more have governments that actively persecute LGBT+ people".

Grindr chief technology officer Scott Chen said in a Tumblr post that sharing data with partners was "industry practice" and that steps were taken to protect people's privacy. "We pay these software vendors to utilize their services", Chen said.

The Norwegian Consumer Council has filed a privacy complaint about Grindr, arguing it's in breach of national and European data protection laws after it emerged the dating app has been sharing personal information about its users with third parties.

"This is the second data scandal involving Grindr in a week and its users will not be reassured by this latest development".

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"What the law regards as informed consent is in nearly all instances uninformed consent", Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told BuzzFeed News. Nonetheless, the public outcry has compelled Grindr to change its policies regarding this sensitive data.

Because the HIV information was sent with a Grindr user's Global Positioning System data, phone ID and email, it could be used to identify specific users and their HIV status, SINTEF said.

He said that Grindr as a company understood how sensitive an issue HIV status disclosure is, but noted the app is a "public forum" and if you choose to include your HIV status in your profile "this information will also become public". Of course, it also seems unlikely that many of those who installed the app on their phones and tapped quickly through its installation screens ever bothered to parse the fine print in the first place.

Grindr has long promoted HIV awareness, offering information about free testing sites and opt-in reminders for semiannual testing. The move was lauded by AIDS activists, who hoped the service would tackle stigma against the virus, in addition to providing education regardng health services.

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