Reeling from Public Scorn, Grindr Doubles down on Sharing Clients’ HIV Status

Written by | Lifestyle

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Caught with their hands in the data sharing cookie jar, Grindr’s security chief has now stated publicly that it will no longer share users’ HIV status outside the app.

Officials behind the app are still trying to have it both ways, though — saying that what they did wasn’t wrong, and that its users shouldn’t post information they don’t want broadcast. Bryce Case, head of Grindr security, now tells Axios that Grindr has amended its policy for sharing “particularly sensitive information” (like their users’ HIV status), with third parties following yesterday’s firestorm of criticism.

Monday it was revealed that the dating app had shared a vast array of profile information with two outside companies, Localytics and Apptimize. Both bill themselves as organizations which offer to “optimize” app use. The revelations came fast and furious — as did the backlash — after a Swedish TV program reported a Norwegian nonprofit organization’s findings about the undeclared sharing of not only HIV status, but many other pieces of private information — all of which could be traced back easily to a user.

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Once again, Case emphasized that Grindr did not profit from their data share. In his words, the app has been “very careful to balance the needs of our customers with the needs of our advertisers.”

In fact, Case pushed back against the outcry from the gay community, saying that Grindr has been “unfairly” singled out for criticism, despite the fact that during the period when the app was sharing sensitive information on its clients sero-status with outside companies, it was also encouraging its users to be tested and post their results. Case also maintained that the third parties Grindr deals with are contractually bound not to share the information with anyone else.

Case tried to deflect the criticism by saying that the revelations are actually “conflating an issue and trying to put us in the same camp where we really don’t belong,” — a none-too-veiled reference Facebook’s recent troubles with Cambridge Analytica, which was able to infiltrate the social media giant to gather information on some 50 million users.

But comparing voting preferences to HIV status is a false equivalency, according to many media and medical professionals. The data provided by Grindr to their outside clients included not only e-mail addresses, but personal phone numbers and even GPS locations.

Lastly, in a response oddly reminiscent of a tweet from the Oval Office occupant, Grindr is quoted on Tumblr as saying their app is a “public forum,” and users shouldn’t share anything they wouldn’t want to be made available elsewhere.

Last modified: February 15, 2019