Grindr may be sharing user HIV status without consent

Gay dating app Grindr has released a new feature recently that allows its users to opt for HIV testing reminders. A new data analysis from SINTEF, a Norwegian research firm, has revealed that Grindr could be sharing this sensitive information regarding the users’ HIV status with two other companies.

Grindr, which came into being in 2009, has been promoting HIV awareness for a long time now and has been offering information regarding regular testing and free testing centres. They recently introduced an option where users could be reminded for a semiannual testing for HIV. The app allows open dialogues about HIV among users and also provides FAQs regarding HIV and its treatment and prevention. The app allows its users to display their HIV status as either;

  • Positive
  • Positive and in treatment
  • Negative
  • Negative and on PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis – meant to prevent contracting HIV in non infected partners of HIV positive individuals)

The Grindr app has over 3.6 million active users worldwide and has information like HIV status and last tested date of the users. This information has been shared with Apptimize and Localytics, the new reveal finds. These companies work to optimize apps and their functioning. The app is also sending the information to these companies along with the age, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, body type, sexual position preferred, gay subculture, relationship status, GPS data, phone ID and email of the users. This means that the companies could identify these users and know their HIV status. This is a violation of individual privacy and goes against the company’s users’ privacy policy.

According to the company policy, “You may also have the option to provide information concerning health characteristics, such as your HIV status or Last Tested Date. Remember that if you choose to include information in your profile, and make your profile public, that information will also become public.”

This new data that comes from SINTEF was confirmed by cybersecurity experts. Antoine Pultier, a researcher at SINTEF said the HIV status of the user is found to be linked to all the other information provided by the user. This is one of the main problems. According to Grindr the sharing of the health information is to improve the app and they are not selling this sensitive information. Scott Chen, chief technology officer, Grindr, said no user information is being sold to third parties and that they pay these software vendors for the sole purpose of using 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,” he said. He said this was standard practice and was safe and secure. Users and privace advocates are not so sure however.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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