Grindr responds after sharing HIV status of users with other companies

Grindr responds after sharing HIV status of users with other companies

"Grindr strongly encourages our users to take a rigorous approach when examining how and where their data is shared, but 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.

Grindr's vendors - Apptimize and Localytics, two companies that help optimize apps - were able to access HIV statutes, along with Global Positioning System data, phone numbers, and email addresses, BuzzFeed first reported on Monday.

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.

In a tweet, USA senator Ed Markey suggested that greater care needed to be taken when handling information about individuals' HIV status: "Privacy isn't just about credit card numbers and passwords".

The social networking app used by 3.6 million people has been doing more than simply facilitating hookups, and in the process has potentially put the privacy of its users at risk.

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Users on Grindr are given the option to share their HIV status along with the time they were last tested - an option backed, the company said, by LGBTQ groups and worldwide health organisations.

Prior to this, Grindr's chief technology officer Scott Chen shared a Tumblr post saying that sharing data with partners such as Apptimize and Localytics was "industry practice".

But HIV and online privacy advocates said that the practice was an "egregious breach" of users' trust, both because they weren't notified that their information was being shared and because storing the information in more places means that it will be stolen. BuzzFeed News later replicated their results and verified the information with outside cyber security experts.

Chen also said that Grindr reminds its users that sharing their HIV statuses on their profiles will make that information public.

Grindr rolled out the option to list HIV status in profiles past year with the intention of allowing punters to clearly warn others of their condition.

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An investigation by BuzzFeed News revealed that the data was being provided by Grindr to Apptimize and Localytics, which help to optimise apps.

"It's important to remember that Grindr is a public forum", Chen said. While it's not legal to fire someone for HIV *for now*, it IS legal in most states to fire/not hire them for being LGBTQ.

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

Before the company yanked the HIV status data sharing, Pultier told Ars by email on Monday that his organization was hired by SVT to do the privacy audit work.

But some Grindr users reacted angrily to this admission it shared personal data, with one user asking what other information Grindr had shared with other firms, and they were only admitting this after getting caught.

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