This Dating App Shared Users’ Highly Sensitive Medical Data - Including HIV Status
Your dating woes are about to get even more complicated if you're on Grindr, which shared sensitive user data with at least two third-party companies, according to an investigative report by BuzzFeed published on Monday. With the help of an external research firm, the report confirmed that Grindr shared user data such as HIV status, locations and email addresses with other parties.
Initially, Grindr defended itself against criticism and declared in a Tumblr post that it's an "industry standard practice" to pass on data of such nature. The post mentioned that Grindr did indeed use sensitive data, but it was to "test and optimize how we roll out our platform." It insisted that the companies must abide by an unspecified set of "strict contractual terms" so they can provide the "highest level of confidentiality, data security, and user privacy."
In spite of such assurances from the company, public criticism seems to be at an all-time high. AIDS advocacy group member James Krellenstein told BuzzFeed that the possible repercussions of sharing personal data with third-party vendors are deeply concerning. "Grindr is a relatively unique place for openness about HIV status," Krellenstein said. "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."
The scathing report on Grindr arrives shortly after Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal. While Facebook is scrambling to address waning public trust, internet privacy advocates have shared tutorials on how to reduce one’s digital footprint, block third-party access to personal data, and even download user data profiles from Google and Facebook.
Heightened skepticism and the increased popular urge to protect personal data aren't going away any time soon. But it’s worth mentioning that a lot of the practices that make people uneasy are pretty much part of many companies’ business models. They state it in their Terms of Service that we often gloss over. So the next time you download an app, read the ToS thoroughly. If you see something you don’t agree with, opt out before it’s too late.