Dating app Grindr will stop sharing users' HIV status with third-party analytics companies

Dating app Grindr will stop sharing users' HIV status with third-party analytics companies

Gay dating app Grindr is to stop sharing users' HIV status with third parties after it was found to be handing over user information to two external analytics companies – Apptimize and Localytics.

Sensitive information given to the "app optimisation" companies was encrypted and anonymised, and it was not shared with advertisers. However, the company told BuzzFeed that it planned to halt the practice imminently to "allay people's fears".

The hook-up app's chief security officer Bryn Case said the media had "conflated the issue" by putting Grindr's practice in the same camp as Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal; in which the data of 50 million users is alleged to have been harvested in order to obstruct democracy.

Case said that users' HIV data, which included their HIV status and last tested date, was only shared with Apptimize as part of a standard rollout procedure for new features on the app.

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

In a statement to BuzzFeed, which broke the story after receiving information from Norweigian nonprofit Sintef, Case said: "It's being conflated with Cambridge Analytica. This is just something we use for internal tooling. I will not admit fault in the regard that the data was used."

Grindr reached out to users via a blog post, saying it was clearly marked in its privacy policy that users who choose to include HIV information in their profile, should be aware the information could also become public.

The company added: "The inclusion of HIV status information within our platform is always regarded carefully with our users’ privacy in mind, but like any other mobile app company, we too must operate with industry standard practices to help make sure Grindr continues to improve for our community.

"We assure everyone that we are always examining our processes around privacy, security and data sharing with third parties, and always looking for additional measures that go above and beyond industry best practices to help maintain our users’ right to privacy."

The furore comes as Facebook's Cambridge Analytica controversy continues to rumble on. Just last week the company looked to assuage users by making privacy and data settings easier to find.

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