Grindr, the hookup app for gay and bisexual men, on Monday said that it would stop sharing HIV status information with third parties.
Earlier in the day, BuzzFeed News
reported that Grindr was sharing sensitive information users choose to include in their profiles, such as HIV status and "last tested date," with two companies, Apptimize and Localytics.
Antoine Pultier, a researcher at the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF, which first identified the issue, said that the two companies were also given users' GPS data, phone ID and email, making it possible for them to identify specific users.
"The HIV status is linked to all the other information," Pultier said
. "That's the main issue. I think this is the incompetence of some developers that just send everything, including HIV status."
Grindr told BuzzFeed News that it was not selling the information, but using these software vendors to improve their application.
"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," said Scott Chen, chief technology officer at Grindr.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat, criticized Grindr. "Privacy isn't just about credit card numbers and passwords," he said in a tweet. "Sharing sensitive information like this can put LGBT Americans at risk."
Bryce Case, chief security officer at Grindr, told Axios on Monday that it would no longer share users' HIV status with its third-party vendors.
Case also said that Grindr was being unfairly singled out.
He told Axios that there is a difference between a "software platform we use for debugging and optimization purposes" as opposed to "a firm that's trying to sway elections," a reference to user data that Cambridge Analytica inappropriately scraped from Facebook.
Grindr recently rolled out a feature
that reminds users to get tested for HIV.