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Grindr discloses users’ HIV status to other companies

A data analysis conducted by a research firm showed that the popular gay dating app Grindr is sharing its users’ HIV status with two other companies.

So much for privacy?

Grindr is in a sticky situation after it was found that the hookup app shared its users HIV status and location data to other companies, according to a BuzzFeed News report by Azeen Ghorayshi and Sri Ray. The hookup app specifically furnished two companies, Apptimize and Localytics, with data on users’ HIV status and the last date they were tested for the virus.

The same BuzzFeed News article cited Antoine Pultier, a researcher from Norwegian non-profit organization SINTEF, who found that users’ HIV status was sent to two other companies, along with their email addresses, phone ID, and GPS data. SINTEF also noted that Grindr was passing on user data to advertising companies, with it being the type of information that the app’s users may not want shared beyond Grindr.

SINTEF was commissioned to produce the report by Swedish public broadcaster SVT, which first publicized the findings.

In response, Grindr claimed that it hired these companies to optimize the app, part of what the company said are “standard practices in the mobile app ecosystem.”

It is worth noting that Grindr users may not be explicitly aware that their data is being shared beyond the app, thereby touching on privacy issues. Also, sans transparency (and consent), the app has been letting private data go beyond the confines of its infrastructure by allowing this to be stored on servers it doesn’t control.

This development – coupled with the continuing stigma surrounding HIV – could affect people’s decision to disclose their status or not. As it stands, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) cite “fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to get tested, disclose their HIV status and take antiretroviral drugs (ARVs)”.

One UK study, in fact, found that “participants who reported high levels of stigma were over four times more likely to report poor access to care.” This, in turn, contributes to the expansion of the global HIV epidemic and a higher number of AIDS-related deaths.

BuzzFeed News claimed that Grindr has since said that it will stop sharing the information.

The hookup app boasts more than three million daily users, and it is not immediately clear how many of its users were affected; as well as the breakdown in countries like the Philippines.

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