Grindr will no longer share the HIV status of its users with third-party vendors.
The gay hookup app faced a backlash Monday, after BuzzFeed published a report that it was sharing this sensitive health information with two companies that optimize apps, Apptimize and Localytics. SINTEF, a Norwegian nonprofit organization, discovered this data had been sent after performing a test of potential privacy leaks on Grindr in February.
Alarmingly, the data on HIV status was bundled with other information that might jeopardize the privacy of a user, including phone ID, email, and GPS position. "I think this is the incompetence of some developers that just send everything, including HIV status," SINTEF researcher Antoine Pultier concluded to BuzzFeed. Researchers expressed fears this information could be hacked, and used by anti-LGBT governments or others for nefarious purposes.
Bryce Case, the security chief of Grindr, confirmed it would cease to share information on HIV Tuesday to Axios. But he also pushed back against the media attention on Grindr. "I understand the news cycle right now is very focused on these issues," Case said, adding, "I think what’s happened to Grindr is, unfairly, we’ve been singled out."
On Monday, Grindr chief technology officer Scott Chen defended the share of data as "industry standard practices." And Case believed the public was confusing this news with the actions of Cambridge Analytica — a company that mined Facebook data in order to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. "It’s conflating an issue and trying to put us in the same camp where we really don’t belong," Case told Axios.
Regardless, many slammed Grindr for what was widely perceived as dangerous negligence in its sharing of HIV statuses. In a statement to BuzzFeed, James Krellenstein, a member of ACT UP New York, condemned Grindr's sharing of HIV statuses as "an extremely, extremely egregious breach of basic standards that we wouldn’t expect from a company that likes to brand itself as a supporter of the queer community."