Grindr exposed its users' HIV statuses to two other companies

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Plans to halt the data sharing followed a report by Buzzfeed News - citing research from Norwegian non-profit SINTEF - that the app was was passing on users' HIV information along with their Global Positioning System data, phone ID and email, which could make it possible for the companies to identify sensitive information about specific users.

As first reported BuzzFeed, following data analysis by Norwegian non-profit research organisation SINTEF, Grindr has been handing out HIV status and "last tested date" data to Apptimize and Localytics, which both help to optimise apps. The company told me last week when news of another security issue arose that "all information transmitted between a user's device and our servers is encrypted and communicated in a way that does not reveal your specific location to unknown third parties".

The potential dangers of having this information published beyond the Grindr community-remember, the company goes to great lengths to enable use of the app where local prejudices and/or anti-gay laws make homosexuality taboo or illegal-don't require further explanation.

James Krellenstein, a member of AIDS advocacy group ACT UP New York, told Buzzfeed that it appeared Grindr didn't explicitly notify members of the data sharing.

"We make it clear in our privacy policy that if you choose to include this information in your profile, the information will also become public", Grindr's chief technology officer Scott Chen had said in a blog post.

And Grindr's security boss Bryce Case later exclusively told United States news site Axios that data sharing with third-party companies with the goal of improving the app, rather than selling data, was commonplace.

However, it is unclear why Grindr would share information like a user's HIV status with Apptimize, which offers services for A/B testing in mobile apps.

Bryan Dunn, the VP of product at Localytics, said the information his company receives meets industry security standards and his company strictly controls all access to its production systems.

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You may also have the option to provide information concerning health characteristics, such as your HIV status or Last Tested Date.

Users who include their HIV status in their Grindr profile may not have control of who sees their diagnosis outside the platform.

Case said that Grindr's situation is much different from Facebook's, noting that the objective was strictly for debugging the app.

"Data protection is the new frontier in the battle for human rights".

"It is up to each customer to determine what information they send to Localytics, and Localytics processes that data exclusively for the customer's use", he wrote.

Grindr wasn't just sharing highly sensitive information with other companies, but it was also doing it via unencrypted channels. The laxity with which this extremely important and private information is handled undermines the message of care and consent that Grindr is careful to cultivate.

"Under no circumstances does Localytics automatically collect a user's personal information, nor do we require personal information in order for our customers to get the benefits from using our platform", Localytics product VP Bryan Dunn said in a statement to The Register.

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