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Wednesday 16 January 2019

Gay dating app to stop sharing HIV data of users after criticism

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Stock photo

Maya Oppenheim

Gay-dating app Grindr has said it will stop sharing its users' HIV status with other companies after it was heavily criticised for distributing the information to third parties.

Tech firms Apptimize and Localytics, which help to manage the app's performance, had been provided with the data.

As the HIV information is transferred alongside GPS, phone ID data and email, users could be identified along with their HIV status, according to Antoine Pultier, a researcher at Norwegian non-profit organisation SINTEF, which first raised the issue.

In response, Grindr's chief technology officer Scott Chen said sharing data with partners to test and optimise its platform was "industry practice".

He insisted sensitive data was encrypted when sent and vendors were bound by strict contractual terms to ensure it is kept secure and confidential.

"Grindr has never, nor will we ever, sell personally identifiable user information - especially information regarding HIV status or last test date - to third parties or advertisers," Mr Chen said in a post on microblogging site Tumblr.

The Los Angeles-based app was founded in 2009. It is the largest and most popular gay mobile app and has 3.6 million users worldwide.

Users are given the option of sharing their HIV status and when they were most recently tested.

"As a company that serves the LGBTQ community, we understand the sensitivities around HIV status disclosure," Mr Chen said. However, he also drew attention to the fact Grindr is a "public forum" - noting that "if you choose to include this information in your profile, the information will also become public".

International non-profit digital rights group Electric Frontier Foundation argued Grindr's response was "disappointing".

Veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell condemned Grindr and said security breaches could be exploited to make arrests and by homophobic vigilantes to make violent attacks.

"All dating apps serving LGBT+ people must comply with data laws but its operators also have a special duty to adhere to a higher standard of confidentiality, given the prevalence of HIV stigma and homophobic prejudice, discrimination and hate crime in many countries," he said.

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

"To have your HIV status shared with third parties when you weren't explicitly notified about it is an extremely serious breach of privacy."(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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