Grindr users seek payouts after dating app shared HIV status with vendors

A person's finger hovering over a Grindr app icon on a phone screen

Getty Images | Thomas Trutschel

Grindr is facing a class action lawsuit from hundreds of users over the sharing of HIV statuses and other sensitive personal information with third-party firms.

UK law firm Austen Hays filed the claim in the High Court in London yesterday, the firm announced. The class action “alleges the misuse of private information of thousands of affected UK Grindr users, including highly sensitive information about their HIV status and latest tested date,” the law firm said.

The law firm said it has signed up over 670 potential class members and “is in discussions with thousands of other individuals who are interested in joining the claim.” Austen Hays said that “claimants could receive thousands in damages” from Grindr, a gay dating app, if the case is successful.

Austen Hays alleges that Grindr violated UK data protection laws by sharing sensitive data for commercial purposes without users’ consent, including when it “unlawfully processed and shared users’ data with third parties, including advertising companies Localytics and Apptimize.”

While Austen Hays describes Localytics and Apptimize as advertising firms, they do not seem to be in the business of selling ads. Localytics is software for mobile app marketing and analytics, while Apptimize says it provides A/B testing and feature release management for product teams.

Grindr admitted sharing HIV status, said it stopped

Grindr has admitted sharing HIV status with the firms but stressed that it wasn’t for advertising purposes and pledged to stop sharing that information. The sharing of HIV status came to light in 2018 thanks to the work of independent researchers. At the time, Grindr said it “has never sold, nor will we ever sell, personal user information—especially information regarding HIV status or last test date—to third parties or advertisers.”

Grindr said it “consult[ed] several international health organizations” before determining in 2016 that it would be “beneficial for the health and well-being of our community to give users the option to publish, at their discretion, their HIV status and their ‘Last Tested Date’ to their public profile.

Grindr acknowledged that it had been “sharing HIV status information with our trusted vendors, Apptimize and Localytics.” Apptimize software helped Grindr test and deploy new app features including an “HIV Testing Reminder” feature, while Localytics software was used “to confirm that the new features were not causing problems with the functioning of the Grindr app,” Grindr said.

Today, Grindr provided Ars with a statement in response to the lawsuit. “We are committed to protecting our users’ data and complying with all applicable data privacy regulations, including in the UK,” the company said. Grindr has never shared user-reported health information for ‘commercial purposes’ and has never monetized such information. We intend to respond vigorously to this claim, which appears to be based on a mischaracterization of practices from more than four years ago, prior to early 2020.”

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