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Grindr accused of sharing HIV statuses of some users

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LGBTQ+ app Grindr is facing a lawsuit in the UK over allegations it passed on private health information, like HIV status, to ad companies.
Grindr is accused of passing on health information, like HIV status, from its app to advertising companies.

LGBTQ+ dating app Grindr is facing a class action in the UK over allegations it shared private user information with advertisers, including sexual orientation and HIV status.

Grindr describes itself as “the number one social network for the LGBTQ+ community”. It says it has more than 13 million monthly users.

More than 670 people have signed up to the class action, a type of lawsuit where many people are represented by one entity.

Background

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an incurable disease that attacks the immune system, transmitted through bodily fluids. Left untreated, the risk of fatal diseases increases as the immune system deteriorates.

People with HIV can take medication to reduce the disease’s presence in their body to the point that it can’t be passed on. People without HIV can take a medication called PrEP to reduce their risk of contracting the disease.

Grindr users can indicate their HIV status, the date of their last STI test, and whether they use PrEP.

Lawsuit

UK law firm Austen Hays, which is leading the class action, alleges that Grindr passed on “information about the users’ ethnicity and data relating to their sex life and/or sexual orientation” to advertising companies, without user consent.

This also allowed companies to customise their ads to target users based on their Grindr profile information, which can include HIV status.

It’s alleged the data was shared in two phases. Before 3 April 2018, and between the dates 25 May 2018 and 7 April 2020.

Lawyers at Austen Hays argue sharing sensitive data without a user’s consent to third parties breaches UK data protection laws.

Lead lawyer Chaya Hanoomanjee said it had caused “significant distress” for Grindr users.

She added: “many have suffered feelings of fear, embarrassment and anxiety as a result”.

The firm said affected users could receive financial compensation if their data was found to be used illegally.

Grindr response

Grindr rejected allegations it mishandled sensitive data.

A spokesperson told TDA: “Grindr has never shared user-reported health information for ’commercial purposes’ and has never monetised such information.

“We intend to respond vigorously to this claim, which appears to be based on a mischaracterisation of practices from more than four years ago, prior to early 2020.”

Past issues

In 2021, Norwegian authorities found Grindr had illegally passed on data to advertising companies for marketing purposes.

Grindr was fined 65 million krone ($AU9.2 million), and unsuccessfully appealed the decision. Grindr has since launched a lawsuit over this decision.

Additionally, in July 2022, the UK’s privacy watchdog issued a formal reprimand to Grindr. This was after it found Grindr failed to adequately reveal how it handles its users’ data.

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