Grindr has announced it will stop sharing users’ HIV status with other companies, following a public outcry.
Security chief Bryce Case told Axios Grindr had decided “to change its policies around particularly sensitive information, including HIV status.”
The company had been criticized for provided the information to third-party vendors Apptimize and Localytics, which test the app’s performance and features. A rep told CNNMoney Grindr had already deleted HIV data from Apptimize, and was in the process of removing it from Localytics.
Case was quick to differentiate giving status info to Apptimize and Localytics with what Facebook was doing through Cambridge Analytica. “I understand the news cycle right now is very focused on these issues,” he said. “I think what’s happened to Grindr is, unfairly, we’ve been singled out.”
“It’s conflating an issue and trying to put us in the same camp where we really don’t belong,” he added, noting the vendors they use are for “debugging and optimization purposes,” not “to sway elections.”
Grindr also noted that listing one’s HIV status is optional, and those who do know it’s public on their profile. In addition, users’ statuses—unlike their age, interests, location, and relationship status—is not shared with advertisers. “We’ve been very careful to balance the needs of our customers with the needs of our advertisers,” Case said. “User trust is paramount.”
“We’ve fought so hard the last 30 years to ensure HIV status was kept confidential and private,” John Duran, West Hollywood mayor pro tempore, told the L.A. Times. “That’s because people have historically suffered from discrimination in employment, insurance, housing and dating,” added Duran, who is HIV-positive himself.
This is not the first time Grindr has faced criticism over safety concerns: An app called C*ckblocked allowed inventor Trever Fade to access location data, unread messages, email addresses, and deleted photos, of users who provided their password and user name. The members could then see who blocked them.
In 2016, scientists at Kyoto University demonstrated how easy it was to discern a Grindr user’s location, even if they disabled that function.