The gay hookup app Grindr is in damage control mode after a Norwegian nonprofit exposed that the company is sharing users’ HIV status and other personal information with two other corporations. Buzzfeed News independently confirmed the allegations by the researchers.
Apptimize and Localytics, companies that help “optimize” apps, are being sent Grindr users’ HIV status and the date they were last tested if it is included in their profile. The information also includes users’ screen names, GPS data, email address and phone ID.
“Thousands of companies use these highly-regarded platforms. These are standard practices in the mobile app ecosystem,” Grindr Chief Technology Officer Scott Chen told BuzzFeed. “No Grindr user information is sold to third parties. We pay these software vendors to utilize their services.”
“The limited information shared with these platforms is done under strict contractual terms that provide for the highest level of confidentiality, data security, and user privacy.”
“To then have that data shared with third parties that you weren’t explicitly notified about, and having that possibly threaten your health or safety — that is 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,” James Krellenstein, a member of ACT UP New York, told BuzzFeed.
Federal law prevents companies and medical professionals from sharing someone’s HIV status and other medical information outside of limited circumstances, but since users voluntarily share the information on their public profile, the law does not apply.
The company also shares users’ sexual orientation, relationship status, “tribe,” and ethnicity with the companies if the information is listed in their profile.
Grindr was recently purchased in full by a Chinese company. 7.3 percent of new HIV infections in the country are men who have sex with men. Most HIV-infected individuals in China are drug users.