Advocates across the world are discussing sexual health, privacy, and safety in response to a recent controversy at Grindr, where it was discovered that users’ self-reported HIV status, last tested date, GPS data, and other sensitive information were shared with two third-party companies. With more than 3.6 million active daily users, the social network aimed at gay and bisexual men claims the companies received the information to assist with optimizing the functioning of the app, but the revelation has set off outcry among many users– some NGOs are even calling for a boycott of the app.
Grindr has since issued a statement which states that they have decided to “discontinue sharing HIV status information with our trusted vendors.” However, concerns remain about whether or not sufficient protections are in place on user data, and the extent to which users are adequately informed about how and when data is shared.
MSMGF advocates for a world where gay and bisexual men can choose to share their sexual health information with each other and on platforms like Grindr without fear of discrimination or other negative consequences. In the context of widespread discrimination against people living with HIV across employment, housing, and education, as well as serious threats to personal security in countries where gay people are criminalized and victimized with impunity, the sharing of sexual health data and location with third-party companies rightfully forces us to question networking apps’ role in mitigating these fears.
Owners of social networking apps have a duty to protect the confidentiality of its users’ data. They are also obligated to the principles of transparency when it comes to data protection procedures and confidentiality policies, which should be easily and clearly accessible to app users. Hopefully, the uproar around this conversation will lead to social networking apps working with their users to ensure that users’ data are better protected and that confidentiality is respected.
Do you share sensitive information on dating and hookup apps? Sound off in the comments below!
— Global Forum MSM HIV (@MSMGF) April 4, 2018