Grindr to stop sharing users' HIV status with third parties

04 April, 2018, 01:57 | Author: Tina Rodriquez
  • Grindr has reportedly provided the sensitive medical information to Apptimize and Localytics — which help optimize apps and sharpen marketing strategies

That information, along with other data like Global Positioning System location, phone ID, and email was being shared with two companies that Grindr hired to test the app's performance. A data analysis conducted by an outside research firm, and independently verified by BuzzFeed News, shows that the two companies receive some of the information Grindr users choose to share in their profiles, including their HIV status and "last tested date".

Bryce Case, Grindr's chief security officer, told BuzzFeed the company had chose to stop sharing information with Localytics over the reaction to the report, calling it a "misunderstanding of technology". Pultier specified that the HIV data on Grindr is linked with other information and it may be due to incompetence from some developers that happened to send along all information including private and personal data.

"Discrimination and stigmatization based on HIV status is a very real issue for those who are HIV-positive, and this breach of confidentially can only worsen this problem", Lina Rosengren-Hovee, who's studied HIV self-testing interventions using social networking mobile apps, told Vox.

Grindr initially defended their decision to send out HIV status along with other user information, like location, to two companies called Apptimize and Localytics.

"Grindr is a relatively unique place for openness about HIV status", James Krellenstein of AIDS advocacy group ACT UP told BuzzFeed News.

The company has since confirmed to Axios that it is no longer sharing information about its users' HIV statuses, and attempted to downplay the issue, saying users' data had been encrypted.

Although Grindr said it has never sold any personal identifiable user information to advertisers or third-party services, Chen also noted: "It's important to remember that Grindr is a public forum". 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. The company stopped sharing the information with the third party when the feature was rolled out last week, Case said.

The second company, Localytics, was described by Case as a "a software program that we use to analyze our own behavior".

He added that released HIV data could prove to be the reason for discrimination against HIV positive people in workplaces, at school, for housing and healthcare. Nonetheless, the public outcry has compelled Grindr to change its policies regarding this sensitive data.

Despite these assurances, a number of advocates have expressed concern about the news that Grindr had been willing to share such sensitive information.

HIV data had been shared with Apptimize to test a new opt-in feature reminding users to get tested, and ceased once the feature was rolled out last week.

The news follows Grindr's fix of a security flaw that allowed users to see who has blocked them.

Case said there shouldn't be any comparison between Grindr and Cambridge Analytica, a British data firm that worked for President Trump's campaign and is now under criticism over reports that it improperly accessed the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users.



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