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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

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.

Colleyville Rabbi credits survival to active-shooter training

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people taken hostage in a synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, said in an interview with CBS Monday that he initially took in the man because he thought he needed shelter.

The big picture: Cytron-Walker said he spoke to the hostage taker, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, for several minutes and made him tea before Akram took the rabbi and three other people hostage during Shabbat services for around 11 hours in Colleyville, Texas.