Grindr Will Stop Sharing Users' HIV Data With Other Companies

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

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"There is a major difference between a company like Grindr sharing encrypted data with a software vendor to debug its app, and having it harvested from an outside third party like Cambridge Analytica, which is not what is happening here", Case said.

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".

Grindr confirmed the change to NPR in an emailed statement on Tuesday, writing, "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".

Buzzfeed News reported that under the app's "HIV status" category, users can choose from a variety of statuses, which include whether the user is positive, positive and on HIV treatment, negative, or negative and on PrEP, the once-daily pill shown to effectively prevent contracting HIV. "I think this is the incompetence of some developers that just send everything, including HIV status". Firstly, Grindr users may not be explicitly aware that their data is being shared beyond the app, which is a nasty privacy issue that can throw up all kinds of mess - as seen with Cambridge Analytica's use of Facebook data.

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Grindr security chief Bryce Case said numerous concerns with Grindr's data-sharing practices showed a misunderstanding of what was being shared and with whom.

On Monday, BuzzFeed reported that Grindr had been sharing data about its users, including HIV status, to third-party vendors Apptimize and Localytics. Grindr says data that may include location or information from HIV status fields are "always transmitted securely with encryption".

Cooper Quintin, senior staff technologist and security researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, cautioned to BuzzFeed that even if third parties are trustworthy, each copy of the data presents new security risks. Councilmember Duran agreed, saying "I'm starting to believe that numerous young people who work for the company don't understand what we actually fought for in blood", a reference to battles waged in the past to provide health care to HIV positive people and fight stigma against them. However, at no point did the users give explicit permission for Grindr to share this information with other companies.

Grindr has long promoted HIV awareness, offering information about free testing sites as well as opt-in reminders for semiannual testing.

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Apparently, Grindr also used the information as part of its conversation with the two companies that handle its app analytics.

The app's privacy policy warns customers that the information user's put in their profile may be disclosed.

That move angered users who felt they didn't agree to have their data sent to companies beyond Grindr. "If somebody with malicious intent wanted to get that information, now instead of there being one place for that - which is Grindr - there are three places for that information to potentially become public".

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