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The 'Grindr' app logo is seen amongst other dating apps on a mobile phone. Photo: Leon Neal / Getty Images

Grindr has stopped sharing users' HIV status with its third-party vendors, the company's head of security told Axios. However, much of the concerns with Grindr's data-sharing practices were a misunderstanding of what was being shared and with whom, says Grindr security chief Bryce Case.

The bottom line: Grindr may have been sharing more information than needed, but it insists the most sensitive information was encrypted and not shared with advertisers.

The vendors in question — Localytics and Apptimize — help Grindr manage its app performance and, in the case of Apptimize, test features on only a certain percentage of users.

"I understand the news cycle right now is very focused on these issues," Case said, but added, "I think what’s happened to Grindr is, unfairly, we’ve been singled out."

No Cambridge Analytica: He said people hear the term third parties and think that the company has been sharing information the way that Facebook user data ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

"It’s conflating an issue and trying to put us in the same camp where we really don’t belong."
— Case said in a telephone interview on Monday.

There is a difference he said between a "software platform we use for debugging and optimization purposes" as opposed to "a firm that’s trying to sway elections."

Making changes: Case said the company decided to change its policies around particularly sensitive information, including HIV status, after the user outcry.

  • Grindr also notes that, while HIV status can be a particularly sensitive issue in many parts of the world, and even in the U.S., it is an optional field on Grindr and when users do share that information it is available publicly to anyone viewing their profile.
  • And while advertisers do have access to other information, including age, interests, location and relationship status, HIV status is not shared.
  • "We’ve been very careful to balance the needs of our customers with the needs of our advertisers," Case said. "User trust is paramount."

Users still unhappy: Plenty of people were unsatisfied with Grindr's explanation, pointing out that most other sites aren't trusted with someone's HIV status.

More to come?: One of the vocal early critics was Sen. Ed Markey, who tweeted: "Privacy isn’t just about credit card numbers and passwords. Sharing sensitive information like this can put LGBT Americans at risk."

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

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Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.